At last, a wind of change

Often something happens that changes my outlook on life. It could be personal or something that affects us all. I call myself an optimist person, thinking the best of everyone, that good will prevail, a glass half full person. But with this year being the award-winning, best ever year for bad news, I found my optimistic skin beginning to wear thin, and close to bursting. Then came a couple of glimmers of hope: an American president elect who’s likely to bring changes for the better, and positive news on Covid vaccines. It’s too early to cheer, but 2021 could be markedly different from this depressing year.

This wind of change gave me cause to reflect. I’ve written twelve books and several short stories. Eleven of these books are crime thrillers, and one, the latest, is a change of genre, about life and how people deal with its challenges – love, relationships, loyalty, grief, infidelity, and other tests on our character and emotions. So, I asked myself, do I continue writing in this new genre or write a few more crime novels? To help me in this decision, I took a look at the books I’ve written. 

I’ve written about a man faking his death, a murderer meeting up again with the man he thought he’d killed, a man who forgot he’d attempted to kill his wife, a chef who uses his restaurant to conceal his drug dealership, a man who pulls up his wife’s dead body in a fishing net, and a group of terrorists holding the world to ransom by threatening to drop a dirty bomb on London. 

I then created my Harry Fingle character, a guy searching for the truth who was chased by the same assassin over three books. After I’d done with Harry, I wrote two psychological thrillers: one about a night runner who was suspected of being an arsonist, and one about a man who mistakenly thought his wife was dead and remarried.

It was then I thought I’d lay my dagger down and write about people’s experiences and feelings.

My latest book is called Otto and Frankie and is about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

And so, I’ve answered my question, I’ll be writing more in this new-for-me genre.

To find out about my other books see the Books page.

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Vulnerable and endangered

I’ve always had a love affair with elephants. They’re peaceful and passive, apart from when they’re frightened or think their offspring are in danger, they’re vegetarians, and they can live for up to seventy years, mainly spending their time in search of food. Weighing in more than three thousand kilograms and standing about three metres high, they have no problem standing out in a crowd! They’re highly social, forming travelling herds of two or three families, and have a self-awareness and show empathy for their dying or dead.  So impressive.  

But they’re vulnerable and endangered.

‘African elephants are listed as vulnerable and Asian elephants as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). One of the biggest threats to elephant populations is the ivory trade, as the animals are poached for their ivory tusks. Other threats to wild elephants include habitat destruction and conflicts with local people. Elephants are used as working animals in Asia. In the past, they were used in war; today, they are often controversially put on display in zoos, or exploited for entertainment in circuses. Elephants are highly recognisable and have been featured in art, folklore, religion, literature, and popular culture.’ Wikipedia.

~

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

Otto and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. Dutifully reunited by his impending death, she’s amazed to find him a kind and noble man who, while grappling with his wife’s bizarre affair, champions for the world’s forgotten and dispossessed to his last. After Otto’s death, Frankie’s admiration for her father leads her into a dangerous and life changing pursuit. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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On vampire bats and sleep

 With America about to vote for madness or sanity and new lockdowns beginning to spread throughout Europe and the UK, these two clips should make you smile. 

  • Apparently sick bats self-isolate, while lobsters, monkeys and fish avoid other ill animals. I guess if only humans could detect infection so easily, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in.
  • Do you share your sleep patterns with a bear, wolve, lion, or dolphin? Pass Notes on Sleep.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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Tasty tuna

Being a fan of tinned tuna, this clip – ‘Yes we can! 17 delicious ways with tinned tuna, from salade nicoise to melts and fishcakes’ – bought on an unjustified twinge of hunger in me – it was 8:30 in the morning and I’d just eaten breakfast. Packed full of tasty-looking recipes, I rapidly changed my plans for supper that night, and picked one to try. Having searched the kitchen and found an out of date pack of orzo in the cupboard and a few almost mouldy olives in the fridge, I chose  Ottolenghi’s baked orzo puttanesca (see featured image). I didn’t use the exact ingredients he suggested but substituted with what we had. It was delicious!

If you want to say to me, ‘how could you eat that pet food? Ugh!’ Let me tell you I’m used to those comments. My wife says them every week when I make my own version of salad niçoise (recipe later). I’m quite fussy, and having tried almost every tin of tuna on the market, I’ve settled on a couple of brands I like and are sustainably sourced, and buy whichever one of them is on offer each week, but being the only person in the household to eat tinned tuna, I have to buy the mini cans. 

My love affair with tuna started with fresh tuna, which I still buy for a treat now and again – searing it for only one minute on each side, leaving it uncooked inside. Again, delicious. But with sustainable fresh tuna being expensive, I’ve tried and like tinned.   

Salad Niçoise – my recipe for one.

This is very rough and ready and influenced by what I find in the fridge.

  • Tinned tuna 80-150g
  • New potatoes 100g
  • Half a fennel bulb
  • One red pepper (I deseed mine, but it’s not necessary)
  • About 80g of fresh kale, uncooked and finely sliced. (lettuce or another brassica is fine, I like the strong taste of raw kale)
  • Small handful of olives
  • Handful of coriander (again not essential, depending on what’s left over), well chopped
  • Capers: about a dessertspoonful
  • 3 or 4 tinned anchovies, chopped (optional)
  • One hard-boiled egg
  • Sometimes I throw in a handful of croutons
  • Seasoning

Method

Turn the oven on to 180 fan. Put the potatoes and egg on to boil, seperatedly. Slice the fennel and the pepper into thin 1cm slices and place in an oven proof dish. Season, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over half a teaspoon of a hot spice – I use ras el hanout, but chilli, za’rtar, smoked paprika, and similar are all good; use whatever takes your fancy. Now give the fennel and pepper with the seasoning and spice a good stir around before putting in the preheated oven for twenty minutes. Meanwhile, chop the kale very thinly, place in a big bowl, and dress with olive oil, a little wine vinegar, and pepper and salt. Massage the dressing into the kale, using your hands. Once massaged, leave for at least ten minutes. When the egg has boiled for eight to ten minutes, take it out, run it under a cold tap for two to three minutes, then peel off the shell and leave aside. Check the potatoes. If they’re cooked, drain and leave aside. By now the fennel and peppers should be ready. If so, take them out of the oven and leave to cool a little.

Open the tin of tuna, drain, and break it up with a fork. Add the potatoes and tuna to the kale and toss around. Scrape the fennel and peppers into the bowl, making sure to scoop in most of the cooking oil. Now add the olives, capers, coriander and anchovies and toss all again. Chop or slice the egg to your liking and add, together with croutons if using. Season, and give the whole thing another light toss. It’s now ready to eat. Enjoy    

Experiment and play around with this dish. Use tinned beans or cold, cooked green beans instead of the peppers and fennel, and cold, cooked pasta instead of the potatoes. Use as little or as much tuna as you wish. It really is an easy dish to get together in about half-an-hour, usually from what’s in the cupboard. It could still be a little warm when you eat it but is fine cold.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

Mailing list

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Take a dive, take a piece of coral

Even if you’ve done only a little scuba-diving or snorkelling, like me, and have been blown away by the spectacular beauty of a coral reef, splendid in its riot of colour and teaming with multi-coloured and varied sized and shaped fish, from sparkling, shimmering tinies to gargantuan biggies that come up close and eye you up while sucking in their cheeks, you will be saddened by the following article: but read on, there’s hope.  

For most of us, the colourful, otherworldly marinescapes of coral reefs are as remote as the alien landscapes of the moon. We rarely, if ever, experience these underwater wonderlands for ourselves – we are, after all, air-breathing, terrestrial creatures mostly cocooned in cities. It is easy, therefore, not to notice the perilous state they’re in: we’ve lost 50% of coral reefs in the past 20 years; more than 90% are expected to die by 2050 according to a presentation at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego, California earlier this year. As the oceans heat further and turn more acidic, owing to rising carbon dioxide emissions, coral reefs are tipped to become the world’s first ecosystems to become extinct because of us…’ The Guardian.

Here’s the good news. Man has found ways to re-grow coral and has discovered, in some oceans, coral is adjusting to the change in temperature and forming naturally in colder waters where it had never grown before. Amongst the many ways man is trying to save coral, two stand out. Coral farming, where seeds from living coral are grown in coral farms in shallow waters, then, once established seedlings, taken out into deeper waters and grafted back onto the coral reef; and secondly coral transplanting, a process where live coral is grafted onto dying coral and grows. This is the gig where recreational divers are enlisted to take a piece of live coral with them on their dives and clip it onto dying coral.  ‘Tour operators can clip several hundred coral fragments on to the reef in each dive – each takes seconds – and within one to two months, the coral naturally glues itself on to the reef and starts growing. The clip just degrades over time.’ The Guardian.

This is just the beginning, and much work needs to be done to save coral reefs from wipe out, but thanks to man’s ingenuity and progressive spirit, multiple teams around the world are doing just that.  

Coral is one of the world’s wonders, beautiful, spectacular, and stunning, but what’s more, it’s vital to the health of the planet, mankind, the ecosystem, and all life in our oceans. Without coral, the world’s ecosystem would take a hit, many species of fish would become extinct, and half a billion people, who’re dependant on coral reefs, would lose their livelihood. 

Read more.

My latest bookOtto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

A compelling read, I’m told.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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‘Imagine all the people, living life in peace’

Imagination: the wonderful ability of the mind to be creative, the source of films and plays, the food for writers and artists, where chefs’ search for new dishes, the driver of innovation, and the vision for a better future, is also best remembered as having the title role in John Lennon’s iconic song, Imagine, in 1971.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man 

Lennon would have been 80 last week. December this year will be the 40th anniversary of his tragic death when he was shot outside his home in New York. At the time of the song, many said he was a dreamer (his own words) and naïve. But was he? Look at some of the lyrics:  

Nothing to kill or die for

Imagine all the people – Living life in peace. 

No need for greed or hunger.
A brotherhood of man. 

Who’d disagree with any of that. All noble aspirations that most citizens of the world would want. Nothing revolutionary, no coups, no bloodshed, just peace and harmony. Sadly, 49 years on since he wrote it, our world leaders still have much to do. 

For me, the song was beautiful, relevant, and a goal for the world, telling us what needed to do if humanity was going to progress. We have moved forward since 1971 in many ways, but there’s still much work in progress, and right now it could feel we’re going backwards. 

By 2013, Imagine had sold over 1.6 million copies in the UK. More than 200 artists have performed or covered the song, including Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Joan Baez, Lady Gaga, Elton John and Diana Ross. After Imagine was featured at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the song re-entered the UK Top 40, reaching number 18. In March 2020, in response to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, the actress Gal Gadot posted an informal but star-studded cover version of Imagine on Instagram. Wikipedia.

So, to our world leaders I say, take a few minutes to listen and learn from it, and try harder.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

I’m told it’s a compelling read.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

Mailing list

The Times They Are-A Changin’

The lyrics to Bob Dylan’s iconic song of 1964, The Times They Are A-Changin’ seem more apt than ever. With the impending divisive US presidential election, Covid 19 and the huge challenges in its wake, setting ourselves adrift from the EU – the biggest trading bloc in the world – and the climate crisis, you couldn’t have imagined a more toxic bunch of hurdles before us. His words in the third verse, Come senators, congressmen, apply to all politicians wherever they areLet’s hope they heed the call.  

Come gather ’round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Meanwhile, back home, where weak sun shines on fading leaves, soon to explode in a riot of autumn colours before fluttering down to the ground, plants well past their best slowly hunker down for winter, tall grasses flutter in the light breeze and probably stay that way until the first frost freezes their wispy tufts hard and makes them look like frozen spears, it’s autumn. 

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

I’m told it’s a compelling read.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

 

Days Without End is the title of the epic and intimate novel by Sebastian Barry that manages to create spaces for love and safety in the noise and chaos of history, and one of my best reads.  It could also be an apt description of the extraordinary troubling times the world is going through. The daily dose of depressing news seems relentless.

But I’m an optimist, inspired by how mankind and individuals have overcome terrible events and personal traumas to build a better future. ‘Hope springs eternal,’ first used by an English essayist in 1732 describing mankind’s continuum of hope, sounds a better slogan to me.

I get that there has to be a plan and belief to overcome adversity but think how Nelson Mandela would have coped with thirty years imprisonment if he hadn’t had hope,  how hope and belief drove Alexander Fleming to discover antibiotics, and how the British people during the Second-World-War hoped the war would end the way it did. Without hope history would have been very different.

Let me share some reasons for hope. 

Firstly, the virus. 

Many people in the know are saying vaccines will be available for Covid-19 next year, even a chance that they’ll be one ready for mass immunisation by the end of the year: China and Russia say they are vaccinating key workers already. The earlier vaccines may have limitations, but they’ll start to stop the virus’s spread, and further development will improve them, as has happened in almost every medical advance in history. Several treatments are now in use by doctors and medical staff to lessen the severe effects of the virus, bringing the death rate down. 

The doomsters say vaccines may not work, it’ll take a several years to vaccinate the world’s population, they’ll be many non-vaxers, and more. Oh yeah; but look at the positive. At the outset of the pandemic, commentators said it’ll take years to have a 100% effective vaccine, and it may, but at the least, in just over nine months, we have several vaccines in trails that are showing promising results. That’s positive, and meanwhile new treatments for Covid patients  will be discovered while the existing ones will improve. Man’s ingenuity knows no bounds. We can send a rocket millions of light years away in space to land on a spec on a distant planet.   

The virus is devastating, a million people have died worldwide, but we may be at the beginning of the beginning, and a tiny spec of light flickers at the end of the tunnel.

Climate Crisis

This week Marks and Spencer announced the end to selling milk and milk products produced from cows fed on soya grown in destroyed rain forests. In future they will only sell milk products from cows fed on an environmentally friendly feed. This is a huge step to push back on the climate crisis, and, I’m sure, many more food retailers will follow, if they already haven’t.

In Turkey, where the coral reefs are dying because of global warming and man’s sea pollution, scientist have discovered ways to transplant live coral alongside almost extinct coral, which in time regenerates the reef, saving it, and bringing it back to full health.  

Also this week from China: “We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,” Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly via a video link on 22 September.

All of this is encouraging, fuelling my optimism that man is inherently progressive, and despite setbacks and some politicians trying to manipulate events for their owns agendas, a great many people – scientists, doctors, medical practitioners, commentators, campaigners, social workers, and even sane politicians, and many others – are working to make this a better world.

Stay safe.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

I’m told it’s a compelling read.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

What next? 

The book’s published, the promotion is ongoing, I’ve done an interview with a friendly freelance journalist, hoping to find a magazine or newspaper willing to print it, and I’m left thinking about my next project.

I could give the garden an autumn make-over, sign up to an online cooking course, make an extra loaf of bread every day, start a new fitness regime, read more, watch old movies I’ve seen several times, and go for long walks. 

But my yearning to write is strong. I want to create a story again, invent new characters, contrive events, think up dramas, build in suspense, and figure out all the other facets that makes a book compelling. I’ll tens to the garden, make bread, keep fit, investigate new recipes, watch movies, and read, but no more or less than I do now, whereas writing will become my main event. It’s what I enjoy the most. 

First, I’ll be publishing a trio of short stories in October or November. Then I’ll start on a new novel, and whilst writing it, I’ll post my progress and a few snippets on my website, plus more short stories. 

Two of the trio of short stories can be read on this site.

The parents I did not know

The night my characters came for their revenge 

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in paperback and e-book. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. I’m told it’s a compelling read.

E-book at promotional price until 30 September: amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

Paperback: amazon.    

A friend calls

My friend Billy (not his real name) who’s a journalist, breezed in on Saturday morning, unannounced. His purpose, he said, as I pushed a coffee his way, was to complement me in person on my latest book, Otto and Frankie. ‘Best you’ve written, and one of the best I’ve read,’ he said. Knowing Billy for some time, someone not flush with complements, and who reads many books, I figured he’d had a touch too much to drink the previous night and was confusing me for someone else. But then he went on to say he wanted to do an interview with me about the book and could we do it right then. Putting back my Saturday gardening plans, I agreed. He didn’t say when the interview would be published, I suspect it won’t, but here’s some of the better bits.

Billy: So? Why did you write Otto and Frankie?

NW: I wanted to write about people dealing with life’s crises; and I thought being told you had three months to live, finding out your wife was having a bizarre affair, and meeting up again with a long-lost daughter – who becomes your greatest admirer and proponent of your values – were tough challenges and could be the human dynamics to drive a story.   

B: Who did you model Otto on? Is he your alter ego?

NW: No, he’s not. But I wanted to create a noble guy with a strong personality and well-liked. I guess I do have similar traits and values to Otto.

B: Do you think Otto was unkind to Holly?

NW: Stand-offish, maybe. No, not unkind. Look; he had three months to live, discovers his wife, who he adored and thought she did him, was having a most unusual affair, and is trying to keep fighting for his cause till his last breath. Confused, sad, but not unkind. I write the story; readers will form their own opinions.

B: You chose evocative settings with West Wittering and the nearby beach. Do you know them?

NW: I do. We live close to West Wittering and walk on the beach often. The beach is beautiful at any time of the year and all times of the day and tide, and I hope I got that across.

B: You describe Otto’s house and garden as comfortable and stylish, but not much detail. Why’s that?

NW: I wanted the beach, the characters, their actions, thoughts and emotions to be the main events. Too much detail on house décor would have been a distraction. Anyway, the shiny lifestyle magazines do that better than me. 

B: Moving on to Holly’s affair. That sort of thing is quite normal these days. Why did you make a big thing of it? 

NW: You’re right. It is, but if you remember Otto said he wasn’t worried about who the affair was, just that Holly had an affair at all that threw him. Having only three months to live, and then finding out his wife was unfaithful almost crushed him had it not been for his indomitable spirit and Frankie’s support. 

B: Frankie could not be more different to her father and didn’t really know him. Isn’t it more likely she would have found him and the family rich, posh strangers, said her goodbyes to her father, and headed back to New York?

NW: She did initially find them like you described, but it didn’t last. She soon recognised her father as the kind noble man he was, and found the rest of the family – Holy, and her and Otto’s twin sons – friendly and trying their hardest to make her feel at home. As the days went on, and her admiration for her father grew, she wanted to stay to the end. And of course, deep down, she had a kind, loving nature, repressed by her tough time in New York, but flourished by the time spent with her dad and the family.

B. In the second part of the book, Frankie becomes the protagonist and narrates the book in the first-person. Wasn’t that a bit of a risk, given that Otto’s part was so compelling, and he was clearly such a noble man?  

NW. Well, I drew them as complete opposites intentionally – Otto the good guy, Frankie a bit of a loser. But she came good and delivered on Otto’s goal despite the odds against her. I wanted to show how people can change. 

B: What was the bit you most liked writing?

NW: All of it. I bin bits I don’t like as I go along. But my favourites were Otto and Holly reflecting on the good times, and Frankie’s confrontational meeting with Otto’s brother. 

B: Any plans for the future?

NW: I’m working on some short stories, then a new book next year.

Otto and Frankie, is available in paperback and e-book. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. I’m told it’s a compelling read.

E-book at promotional price: amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

Paperback: amazon.    

Elephant leave

‘World’s loneliest elephant’ allowed to leave zoo for better life. (The Guardian)

small zoo in Pakistan, not known for its care of the captive wild animals, agrees to release an elephant back into the wild.  Sounds good, but it’s not quite an open-the-cage-and-let-the animal-run-free job. Kaavan, a cause célèbre for animal rights activists and dubbed the world’s loneliest elephant, lost his partner in 2012 and has slid downhill mentally and physically since then. The zoo, much criticised for its poor conditions – two lions died their recently – bowed to international pressure and agreed to release Kaavan and send him to a large animal sanctuary in Cambodia where he’ll be in the company of many other elephants. Elephants are highly social animals and need the company of their fellow creatures. Let’s hope Kaavan’s new life will banish his blues and bring him back to full health. But he still has a long way to go before his revival is complete. More –  

sense of autumn.

Bare feet on a cold stone floor. Faded lavender with still a few blooms and the last few bees gathering dregs of pollen. Drenched grass in the early morning from autumn dew. A few white butterflies flitting around in the midday warm sun. Leaves floating down from the overhanging trees. It’s coming. Soon it’ll be upon us with all its dramatic colours and suddenly bare trees and ploughed fields. With such an odd world around us, I wonder what it will bring? Change – certainly. A better future – hopefully. Some sense – surely?

More on smelly autumn

My new book, Otto and Frankie, is now available in paperback and e-book. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. I’m told it’s a compelling read.

E-book at promotional price: amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

Paperback: amazon

I’ve been away for a few days with my wife and daughter and had the good fortune to stay at Capel Courtyard in Kent. It’s classified as a B & B, but this is no ordinary B & B, surpassing all my expectations. It was booked for me, and although when told about it I nodded in agreement and said how wonderful it looked, I didn’t really register how magnificent it would be. Dating back to the mid 1800 hundreds, it has been renovated lovingly by the present owners over twenty years. Early in the building work they had to have the courtyard (as shown in the photo) lifted to reconstruct the drains. It’s truly superb and must be one of the best B & Bs in the country. An excerpt from Capel Courtyard’s websitefollows:  

‘High ceilings, gothic arches, and lots of windows, create a gloriously light and open feel, offering a multitude of differing views of the courtyard and surrounding gardens. Capel Courtyard is principally a peaceful home from home, rather than a hotel. In keeping with this ethos, we do not have TV’s in our bedrooms or reception spaces. WiFi is however available everywhere, and for the less technologically focused there are books and games.

The Courtyard dates from 1860 and originally comprised the subsidiary buildings – stables, cart sheds, coachman’s house and chauffeur’s cottage – to a grand mansion built by the Austen family (relatives of the famous novelist Jane Austen) and designed in Italian gothic style by Thomas Wyatt.’ Capel Courtyard website.

Using this as our base, we spent the time walking in the Kent countryside, visiting delightful gardens, old oust houses, an English vineyard producing excellent wine, and three good restaurants, whose impressive and rigorous Covid 19 precautions made us feel safe. 

It’s surprising how a few days away in a beautiful setting, good company and food, and with interesting places to visit, revitalises and relaxes you, but it did that and more for the three of us. It beats foreign travel and Covid and quarantine worries!

Tomorrow, Friday 4th September, my new book, Otto and Frankie, will be officially published. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took me the best part of two years to write. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. I’m told it’s a compelling read.

The e-book is available to pre-order at a special promotional price: 

The paperback is available to order now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08CWM9SPD   

A calm week. 

I think this week’s going to be fun and easy. A few days with my wife and daughter staying in a quaint cottage, wandering around the English countryside, visiting some show gardens, enjoying good food, and two or three books to read.

But next week should be different. My new book, Otto and Frankie, is officially launched on Friday, 4th September. I’m not expecting my world to turn upside down, it’ll probably be quite normal, but I started thinking about this book in early 2017, finally typing the first words in August of that year, finishing it in autumn 2019, and messing around trying to get it published ever since. So, I’ll have all the promo stuff to do, and then enjoy for a day or two a feeling of achievement and elation. 

Why did it take me so long, you may ask? Well – it’s different to anything I’ve written before. My previous eleven books have been crime thrillers, where normal people find themselves entwined in very abnormal situations and resort to dark deeds. I felt I’d had enough of that. The world’s pretty dark at the moment, and I wanted to try something new.

Otto and Frankie – a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s bizarre affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter – digs into people’s emotions, the life-changing challenges they face and how they cope, grief, raw emotions, love, and above all, the relationship between a dying man, determined to the last, with his loving but disloyal wife and his long-lost daughter who he’s reunited with for a few weeks after twenty years apart. 

I don’t know how Otto and Frankie will be received, but I enjoyed writing it, and hope others will enjoy reading it.  

To pre-order e-book: amazon.ukamazon.com. Buy the paperback now.

The parents I did not know – a short story about a man searching for the father he’d never met – is also written in the same genre and can be read in full elsewhere on this site.

Mail chimp   

I’ve always been in awe of vultures. Ever since I was young and taken by my parents to see a film, ‘Where No Vultures Fly,’ about ivory poaching in Kenya – sadly still happening – I’ve found all bird predators impressive and noble-looking creatures, but to me the vulture ranks the most magnificent. And so when I read this clip, I wished for more.  

‘A wild, free-flying nine-foot-winged bird of the Alps and Pyrenees; a bone-eating, tortoise-dropping inhabitant of wolf-haunted montane crags; here over the Derbyshire moors, with their grouse and their sadly piping pipits – the very idea seems somehow momentous.

Even as we watched the creature – a second-year, probably female, bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) – sail along the wind-blasted gritstone edge at Shining Clough Moss, it was hard to credit something so expressive of European wilderness. Yet there it floated with barely a flap – massive, glamorous, completely calm – and wheeling away from aggressive buzzards that mithered after it. These lesser predators, which are themselves no mean aerial masters, looked by the side of the giant no bigger than jackdaws. Each one in its entirety was less than one wing’s length of the vulture.

Yet there have been precedents and predictions of just such a visitation to Derbyshire. On 4 June 1927, two griffon vultures were seen in the skies over Ashbourne. Sadly, the record has since been rejected, but there are some who still believe in those birds of nearly a century ago.’ More at The Guardian.

When sundowners heal.

It’d been a long day. I’d spent the morning cleaning the rampant bindweed from the pond, cut back the geraniums that’d past their peak, tidied the garden shed I should have tidied months ago, disturbing a mouse in the process, no doubt hacked off at losing his warm spot behind the logs, and tried without success to fit a new cannister to the BBQ – I’d bought the wrong one! All this frenzied activity on a Sunday was in preparation for my son and his family coming over from France for a week. When he took up his new posting in early January after four years in Lebanon, we were looking forward to seeing them more often and a few weekends in Paris. Little did we know what was lurking around the corner.

At about 5:30 pm, limbs aching and thirsty, I dropped into one of the rather dilapidated garden chairs, hoping I wouldn’t worsen it’s decaying condition, with a long glass of water. A few minutes later, the water drank, and beginning to think about my supper, I didn’t need much persuading that a proper drink was what I needed. After fixing myself a giant-sized gin and tonic, I returned outside to sit and watch the sun start to disappear behind the tall conifer trees the other side of our garden wall. My wife away for the night, I spent the next half-an-hour sipping on my drink while watching two beautiful dragonflies flit around, and bees, too many to count, work hard gathering pollen from the lavender bushes. 

By seven, having fixed the correct gas cylinder to the BBQ, I started to cook my supper, accompanied by a second G & T. About half-an-hour later, I sat at the garden table with a plate of crispy king prawns and squid, peppers, fennel and lightly smashed new potatoes, topped with a spicy BBQ sauce and a glass of red wine. 

Later, after sunset, with twilight descending, and one or two bats swooping back and forth across the patio, I felt grateful. After a day’s toil, I’d been able to sit in our garden, revived by food and drink, and surrounded by nature. I was lucky, many are not so privileged.                  

found this story recently which I wrote eight years for a local competition for ghoulish tales, which I surprisingly won. It’s a bit wacky, but fun.

The night my characters came for their revenge 

After an agreeable lunch with my agent when she’d told me I create compelling characters, I decided to have a bit of fun. I’d ask some of the guys from the books I’ve written to a party in a marquee in my garden. I’d have gallons of booze, loads of food, and whatever other recreational stuff they used. I’d find a good band, who would play loud, eclectic music and nothing dreary, and I’d buy some fireworks for later. I’d invite the nosey neighbours, telling them to come along or go away and shut up. It’d be fancy dress, and I’d ask everyone to wear crazy, off-the-wall outfits. The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. It would be wild, which reminds me – I even considered a few ‘tame’ wild animals. I called up London Zoo and asked if I could borrow a tiger, or lion, or even a croc for the night. I was about to ask for some snakes as well when the man from the zoo interrupted me.

Guess what he said? Oh, he was such a pompous fart. ‘Sir, you’re not being serious, are you?’ he asked, in a high-pitched, posh accent.

‘I am being bloody serious,’ I replied, no doubt with a touch of annoyance sounding in my voice. ‘I’m having a wild party, and I want some wild animals. Can I, or can’t I?’

Ten minutes later an RSPCA van turned up at my house. A uniformed man strode up to the front door, asked to come in, and said he’d received a report that I was harming animals and he had to check it out. ‘You’re joking,’ I said, as I slammed the door in his face. He came back with a police officer, and I had to let them in and allow the man to do his search. I was as polite as pie, saw them off out of the front door, and screamed, ‘Bloody Losers,’ as they walked back to their vehicles.

My next concern was how to get in touch with my characters. I didn’t have contact details for any of them. So, I started to search for them online. I Googled them, searched FB, Twitter and posted a plea to make contact. The replies started to flood in even before I finished the search. I’d asked for an email address. They all sent one. They could have been imposters – wanting to come to a free party – so I devised a cunning game to check if they were genuine. I emailed back, saying I didn’t want to offend them, and would they mind replying with the first words they said in my book. Oh my God; they all came back immediately, and got it right, and asked for the details of the party.

I was on a roll. These wacky people were coming to my house for a night of hilarity and fun. My imagination took off. I couldn’t hang around or they might lose interest. I looked at my diary. The following Saturday was free. I sent out the invitations.

Come to my place, this Saturday, for a night of fun, frolics, and hilarity, when anything can happen, and nothing is forbidden.

Wear fancy dress. It must be outrageous. Come stoned, drunk, or sober – but you won’t leave that way.

Lots of drink, various substances, and food provided.

Come late. Leave with the birds.

See you then.

Much love.

Your creator.

My God, I thought the next morning. I have to organise this thing. The booze and food were easy. I’ll do a BBQ and leave bottles and glasses on a table for everyone to help themselves. It was the other stuff, you know, the narcotics, that were my main concern. I’ve used a little gear in my time, but nothing big, and didn’t know of a reliable dealer. I couldn’t foul up on this. I knew that some of the guys coming did it all, big time. Then I remembered Jimmy Ali, the guy in Playing Harry who was a petty drug dealer and ended up working for the spooks. I sent him a short message, asking him to call me. 

‘What stuff exactly do you want, man?’ he asked after I’d said I wanted ‘some stuff’ for a party.

‘Oh, the lot. You must know what people use.’

His silence made me think he’d hung up on me. Then a rustle of paper. ‘I can get you acid, angel dust, bars, black button, candy…’

‘Stop,’ I said. ‘You’re blowing my mind. You sound as though you’re reading from a list. I don’t know all this stuff. Just come with whatever’s popular.’

‘Okay, man. I can do that. But it’ll cost yer.’

‘How much?’

‘Oh, several grand.’

‘That’s okay. I’ve made a lot from these guys. It’s payback time. I want everyone to have a good time.’ And that’s how I left it.

Next, I had to think about the décor for the marquee. I wanted something dramatic – make people gasp. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and went to sit in the garden to figure it out. I know, I thought. Funeral. I’ll do a funeral theme. I called up a couple of undertakers and asked if they could help out. One of them said, in a deep, serious voice, ‘Would you like the coffins empty or full, sir?’

Full, what do you mean?’ I asked, taken aback, and wondering if I’d gone too far.

‘With a deceased in it, sir. We’ve a few of those hanging around, waiting for their funerals next week. As long as you don’t open the lid, we could bring them along. It’d give the party a bit of a hum and atmosphere, sir.’

I coughed, spluttered, and didn’t know what to say. I shook my head. What have I done? I thought and declined the macabre effects and went for the empty option.

Early on Saturday morning, while the marquee was being erected, Ernest Gravely from the undertakers turned up with three hearses, stacked two-deep with different-styled and coloured coffins.

‘Where do you want them, sir?’ he asked.

‘Come with me.’ I started to walk to the marquee with him. I’d figured it all out since I spoke with him a couple of days earlier.

‘I want them all lined up against the sides of the tent. You know, standing up, some with the lids off. Randomly spaced all around.’

‘That’s fine, sir. I’ve bought along some ivy and white lilies to drape all around them.’ He looked up at the tent’s roof. ‘May I suggest you angle those spotlights down more. Then, if all the lights are dimmed, they’ll stand out. And what about some funeral music, some old orders of service, and some tombstones? We can arrange all of that for you.’ He looked at me. ‘You want it to be authentic.’

‘Great,’ I said. ‘Can I leave it all to you?’ I walked away and imagined the funeral music playing, the lights dimmed to almost dark, and my guests walking in and seeing the illuminated coffins, the tombstones, and the orders of service of the departed. All I needed were a few bats flying around. Just as I reached my back door and was about to go inside and fix my outfit, Earnest rushed up to me.

‘Sir, have you a moment?’

I turned to face him.

‘Would you like to borrow one of our marble slabs, where we embalm and make ready the corpses?’ I looked at him. His eyes were lit up. ‘I thought you might like to serve your drinks from there.’

‘Brilliant,’ I replied, and knew it’d be a fun evening. ‘Can you arrange it?’

My guests started to arrive at nine. I didn’t meet them. I left Jimmy Ali to take care of everything and went to change. I wanted to look like Gomez, from The Addams Family. I put on a thick, black-haired wig with the hair swept back. I dressed in a double-breasted, old-fashioned, dark-grey pinstripe suit with big lapels, a white shirt and a black tie. My shoes were black: lace-up, brogue-type. I checked myself in the mirror, then stuck a thick, black moustache in position on my upper lip, picked up a big cigar, watched myself do a little jig, and made for the marquee.

It was about ten by the time I joined the party. I looked around. I was astounded. Earnest had placed the coffins just as I asked, arranged the lights to highlight them, draped ivy and fake spider webs everywhere, and hung a few skeletons from the marquee’s centre ridge pole. White tablecloths, spotted with a blood-like substance and sprinkled with grey dust, covered the tables. On the old tombstones, he’d painted in black BOOZE and GRUB with arrows pointing to where the drinks and food could be found. The band was playing the opening bars from Elton John’s Funeral for a Friend, loudly. Loads of guests had arrived. I sensed an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation.

I gazed around and caught sight of Monroe Lidlington, the rather serious man in Death in the Fishing Net who was accused of killing his wife after he’d found her body in the sea. He was talking to Jorge, Leonard Castsimatidis’ lover from Murder He Forgot. I wonder if Monroe knows Jorge killed Leonard? I asked myself as I walked up to them.

Monroe was dressed like an Isis fighter. He had a long, flowing beard, a dirty, bloodstained cloth tied around his head, and wore a black combat outfit. An AK-47 hung from his shoulder. God knows where he got that? I wondered as I looked at Jorge, dressed like a surgeon who’d just come out of an operation. He wore stained blue scrubs and a gauze mesh cap over his hair. A couple of soiled scalpels stuck out from his top pocket.

‘Hi, you’re Nick, the author guy who’s holding this bash,’ Jorge said as I approached.

Well, you could put it like that, I thought and shook both of their hands. ‘Nice to meet you guys. Have you come far?’ 

Monroe looked at me in a strange manner. ‘I guess so,’ he replied and waved a hand in the air. ‘Someone downloaded me this morning, and I just strolled along. Good of you to ask us.’

Is it me, I thought, or are they stoned? What the hell was he on about?

‘Oh, darling,’ a blond woman said, as she rushed up to me and shoved a big glass of something in my hand. I turned to look at her. She’d tried to make herself look like Ivanka Trump, and wore a T-shirt with the words, ‘My dad sucks!’ blazoned across the front. I grinned and took a sip from the drink she’d given me.

Oh my,’ I blurted, feeling like a jolt of electricity had shot through my brain. ‘What is this?’

‘Don’t know, darling, but it works. Came to say thank you. You saved me from that bastard Jerome, you know, in Killing Sam Forever. If it hadn’t been for you, I could have ended up screwed and dependent on him.’

I looked at her and figured it was Julie Crichton, Sam’s wife. She’d slept with Jerome several times before she realised he was the guy who’d tried to kill her husband.

‘Glad it all worked out,’ I said. ‘Nice to meet you. Must go. I’ve loads of people to talk to.’

I headed for the bar to find a safe drink. If I’d stuck with whatever Julie had given me, I would have ended up on the floor, and I wanted to last the night. I stopped – in a far corner of the marquee, Jo Sykes, the no-nonsense detective in Electronic Crime in Muted Key and Death in The Fishing Net, was dressed as a stripper and locked in a passionate embrace with George Myrivitis, the Greek detective from the former of those two books. She’d slept with him, once, in the book. Oh well, I thought. I guess they haven’t seen each other for some time.

The band started playing a Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s song, Relax, from the 80s. Everyone stood up, started to jump around, and sing along, especially the chorus line – When you want to come. I looked at my watch. It was eleven-thirty, not even midnight, the party was swinging, and the outfits were striking. There was Sid Vicious from The Sex Pistols, a man dressed as a cannibal with a bone through his lower lip and blood painted on his chin, a hangman, a couple of hookers, a gorilla, a gory-looking Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden with a gaping hole in his chest and the words, ‘Got you,’next to it, Donald Trump, dressed in a hospital gown worn before an operation with a card stuck to his gown saying, ‘Brain transplant.’ In the distance I caught sight of Harry Fingle, from Playing Harry, dressed as a high court judge in robes and a white wig. He was talking to Richard Morecombe, his ex-boss in the book, who’d killed himself after being exposed as having sex with under-age, teenage boys.

That’ll be an interesting conversation, I thought, as I approached Richard and Harry and took a closer look at Richard’s costume. He wore tight, black leather trousers – that bulged around his crotch – a red shirt, opened to his navel, and a gold chain with a big medallion, dangling down to his tummy-button. He wore make-up and his hair was swept back and greased. Appalling, but apt, I thought. I heard raised voices.

‘Listen,’ Harry said and jabbed his finger toward Richard’s chest. ‘I know it was you who set me up. I found out about your dirty deeds with young boys, and you were shit scared I’d go public. You had me fired. Didn’t you?’

‘You’re being ridiculous. We made you redundant. We had to cut back. You were surplus to requirements. You don’t really think…’

‘Hi, guys,’ I said as I approached them. ‘Not interrupting, am I?’

They both turned and looked at me. Richard glared. Harry smiled, and said, ‘Glad you’ve come. You can set the record straight. Didn’t Richard set me up?’

‘Don’t ask me. I only came in when you were in court. You guys sort it out and tell me. I can drop the truth into a new Harry story, can’t I?’ I said and smiled. ‘I was just checking you’re having a good time. Need to go. Must meet everyone.’ I turned, gave them both a quick wave and slid away.

That was a bit scary, I told myself as I made for a tall guy, dressed as Lurch from The Addams Family, like me. ‘I guess we have something in common,’ I said as I came up to him, and saw that he was Grigoriy Nabutov, the ex-Russian mafia boss and assassin in The Bloodied Black Heart and Playing Harry.

He looked at my outfit with his thin, beady eyes in a sort of sneering way. ‘Not bad,’ he said, almost without moving his lips, and without any trace of a smile. ‘Listen, you’ve given me some good parts, but I don’t care much when you stop me killing someone. Can you sort it, so I get to finish a job properly?’

I looked up at him. He had a menacing look, especially in his look-a-like Lurch outfit. ‘I’ll try,’ I replied and saw Leonard Castsimatidis sidle up to us. He was the evil gangster in Murder He Forgot who’d had an affair with Guy’s wife, and then tried to kill Guy. He was dressed as a priest.

‘I like your gall,’ I said to him with a grin. ‘When was the last time you saw the inside of a church?’

‘Hey, don’t take the piss,’ he sort-of growled, but with a half-smirk. ‘I came over to congratulate you on the décor. I like it. Always like things that remind me of the departed. Makes me think how many of them I’ve helped reach their destination.’ He gave me a poke in the ribs and smiled in his familiar, insincere manner. ‘You know what I’m getting at, don’t you?’

I nodded and thought I’d spent enough time in the presence of two of the world’s most dangerous gangsters. ‘I’ll move on, then. If that’s okay with you two? Lots of people to see.’

Grigoriy looked down at me. He smiled for a split second. ‘That’s fine. Leonard and I have much to talk about.’

‘I bet you have,’ I muttered, as I walked away, and wondered if I should bring Leonard back in a new story.

I felt hungry and looked for where the food had been set up. I didn’t have to search for long. Earnest, who’d stayed on as self-appointed organiser, saw me glancing around, and came up and grabbed my arm. ‘You look hungry,’ he said. ‘It’s all over here.’ He steered me toward the food table. We passed Amie Lau, Harry’s ex in Playing Harry, and Kate Fisher, the flaky businesswoman who spied on Harry, and then slept with him in the same book. Amie was dressed as Yoko Ono, Kate as Joan of Arc, her face smudged with ash. They were deep in conversation, talking about Harry, no doubt.

‘Oh my God,’ I said, as Earnest showed me the food. He’d brought along a second marble slab and fixed it up as the food counter. Steaks, sausages, chicken, pork filets, and prawns had been laid up for people to cook on the BBQ. To add authenticity, he’d drizzled a blood-like substance over it all. At the far end of the slab were bowls of salad, rice, jacket potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and bread.

‘What do you think?’ he asked and turned to look at me. ‘Good isn’t it. Quite unusual. Only yesterday this slab had a stiff on it,’ he added with a chuckle and ran a hand over the marble surface. I shivered.

Unusual ­­– it’s bloody bizarre, I thought and felt a bit shocked. I looked at my guests, expecting them to be equally taken aback, but I was wrong. They were devouring the food with relish, lining up for more, and laughing and joking at Earnest’s display.

‘They love it,’ he said and handed me a plate. Oh well, I thought. Blood is blood, and chucked a few things on the BBQ. While I cooked my steak, pushed around the sausages, and turned my chicken a few times, I managed to catch up with a few more of my guests. There was Sarah, alias Tammy, a call girl in Electronic Crime in Muted Key, who was murdered by Barry Carter, alias Sebastian Ainsworth. She’d dressed herself up as a nun, and said, ‘Didn’t like the watery grave you gave me,’ as she slipped past with her plate laden with food. ‘Sorry,’ I replied, but she was gone. Then I came face to face with Alex Gould, the corrupt businessman who blackmailed Kate Fisher and hired a hitman to kill Harry, in Playing Harry. Nasty piece, he was, I thought as we met. He had come along as John Lennon and had made an impressive job of it.

‘Hey, Yoko’s here. I must introduce you,’ I said as we looked at each other. 

‘I’ve met her,’ he growled. ‘She was friends with Harry,’ he added and walked away.

Then, just as I was about to find a table to eat my food, Jimmy Ali bumped into me. ‘Ah, Jimmy. How’s it going? I guess you must have teamed up with Earnest to get this all together.’

‘Yeah, man. He’s good. Tonight’s real cool. I’ve got a little stall going over there, in the corner, and I’m selling loads of stuff. I mean, you wouldn’t guess who’s buying it.’

‘Who?’ I asked, interested to know about my characters’ recreational habits.

He looked into my eyes and smiled. ‘Philip Stacey for one. He’s had a couple of spoonfuls of snow.’

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘Snow, that’s cocaine. I thought you knew.’

I shook my head. ‘But go on.’

‘Sarah, over there.’ Jimmy pointed. ‘The nun. She’s had some grass. That evil guy, Leonard, he’s bought some crack cocaine. Oh, Bruce Thompson, the vicar who looks like the devil, he’s had some acid. Nice guy, told me you had him top himself in Electronic Crime in Muted Key. Something to do with being blackmailed, ‘cos he was gay. Is that right?’

‘On my God, what’s going on,’ I said, catching sight of a commotion on the dance floor.

‘Quick,’ Jimmy said, who was taller than me and could see over people’s heads. ‘I think someone’s going to do a strip. Look, who’s that?’ he asked and pointed.

‘That’s Jo Sykes. She’s a detective.’ Jo stood in the middle of the floor, and danced around in a provocative, suggestive manner while the band played Rod Stewart’s, Do You Think I’m Sexy? While she swayed her shoulders up and down to the rhythm, she took hold of her leather bikini top. The music faded, the band’s drummer played a drum roll, she pulled off her top and flung it into the crowd. Everyone cheered and clapped. ‘She’s magnificent,’ I whispered to Jimmy. 

The band started up again. She kicked off her high-heel shoes, undid the attachment of one of her black, fishnet stockings, rolled it down her leg and over her foot, and chucked it to the many outstretched arms. She did the same with the other leg. For a moment she danced around, wearing only her short, leather skirt, and pointing her leather whip toward various men in the audience. Then the music faded again, the drummer did a drum roll, and Earnest came forward holding a copper incense jug with smoke wafting up from it. He swished it around, the smoke and pungent fumes enveloping Jo and wafting all around. Another roll of the drums. Jo danced around, took hold of her skirt, ripped it off, and let it go the way of her other clothing. The band started to play Marvin Gaye’s; Let’s get it On. Jo danced in her red knickers for a minute or two, slide them off, and tossed them into the crowd to join the rest of her kit.  

Jimmy turned and looked at me. ‘That was some act. Did you know she’d do that?’

I shook my head. ‘Nothing to do with me, but I need a drink.’

As I poured a whisky, the fireworks started up. Giant Catherine wheels with blood-coloured flames and white sparks illuminated vampire effigies chalked on the tombstones. Streaking rockets exploded in big red and green bursts of colour. From out of the hazy smoke appeared the shapes of coffins, the outlines of graveyards, and many ghoulish characters. A giant screen sprung up from the bottom of my garden – the sort used at sports fixtures and gigs. The words, Death Becomes Us, appeared and then disappeared, leaving only the black night and silence. A ball of white light filled the space where the screen had been, and a flock of big, black bats flew out and toward my guests. Some screamed, others ducked their heads. Their unease faded as a bright, blood-red ball of flame shone out, to be replaced by giant candles with white flames and shooting white stars. Through the flames and shooting stars, the image of The Grim Reaper, dressed from head to toe in black and holding a sickle, became recognisable. His expression seemed to mock his audience. Awe and silence, then the reaper’s outline burned and faded away. Before anyone spoke, an explosion shook the ground, the sky lit up and rockets released black, white, and ash-like grey smoke which turned into the words Death Becomes Us – again.

At 3:00 a.m. I saw Barry Carter, the guy who bought a dead body and faked his death in Electronic Crime in Muted Key, and who’d come to the party dressed as Houdini – aptI’d thought. He looked fast asleep, or he’d closed his eyes to avoid me talking to him. I guess after the death I gave him in the book, he didn’t want to talk to me. Moving on, I congratulated myself. The party was a hoot. I’d met nearly all of my guests, most by then either wasted or stoned, but having a good time. I’d drunk and eaten well, smoked a couple of spliffs, and felt at ease with the world. The band had switched to slow stuff. A few guests smooched, clutching each other tightly, whereas most sat at tables, or on the floor, imbibing, smoking cigarettes, marijuana, and other substances. I nodded to a few people as I passed, and headed toward one of the open coffins where I saw a naked leg rise in the air. When I drew close, I heard a woman giggling and making pleasurable moaning noises.

‘Jeez,’ I said aloud. Stevie, Monroe’s girlfriend in Death in a Fishing Net, lay naked, with her legs in the air, inside the coffin. Monroe and her were making love. They were going for it. Vigorous, passionate, and noisy, and they didn’t give a damn. Good for them, I thought, and took a swig of whisky from my small silver hip flask.  

Outside the marquee, in a darkened corner of the garden, sitting on the ground under a tree, I caught sight of a man with his head drooped forward. I moved close. It was Leonard Castsimatidis. His eyes were closed. His large hairy hands rested on his thighs. On the ground close by lay a needle, a candle, matches, a thick rubber band, a spoon, and an empty, small metal dish. All the paraphernalia associated with heroin use. Oh well, I thought. A nasty, mixed up guy.

Moving back inside, I passed Jo Symes – now partially clothed and asleep, her head on George Myrivitis’s lap. I stopped for a moment to watch Emma, a homeless drop-out from The Wrong Menu, dance with Cameron from the same book. They’d lived together for a few weeks but split when Cameron was charged with murdering his brother-in-law.

Lightning lit up the sky. An ear-shattering thunderclap followed. The marquee plunged into darkness, and the sound of torrential rain beating down on the marquee drowned out all conversation. Through the murk I saw bewildered, frightened faces. Water poured through the joins in the marquee’s canopy and rose up through the wooden floor. We were flooding. I looked for Earnest and saw him running toward me, wearing galoshes, a black apron over his undertaker’s outfit, and carrying an old, leather bag, splattered with dark red stains. He had a ghoulish look on his face. ‘Ah hah,’ he said with a toothless, eerie grin. ‘My time has come. Nature has been kind.’

With dramatic flashes of lighting followed seconds later by thunder loud enough to wake the dead, relentless heavy rain, howling wind that made the marquee sway and shake, and frequent electricity cuts that plunged all around into a strange, sinister darkness, I had no doubt we were in the midst of a mighty storm. I looked around. My guests stood in a line, splashing their feet in the swirling water and pointing at me. ‘It’s all your fault,’ they yelled in unison, each with vampire teeth protruding from out of their mouths. 

‘Sir,’ Earnest said, turning to me with a mocking smile. ‘The hearses will be here soon.’ He grinned again. ‘We’ve work to do.’ Unsure how to respond, I looked away and gasped. The water on the dance floor was receding fast toward the edges, like it was being pumped, and turning into giant columns of ice, growing taller as I looked, and making a wall around the marquee. Ten men, all dressed like undertakers, and with vampire teeth, danced around, laughing and letting out great yelps of joy. They sang ‘Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go,’ like in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Through the damp and gloom, two people were striding toward me with clear intent. As they neared I recognised Leonard Catsimatidis and Grigoriy Nabutov. Leonard yelled, ‘There he is,’ and they broke into a run and grabbed me. While Grigoriy held on to me, Leonard pummelled my stomach like he’d done to poor Guy in Murder He Forgot.

I yelled, ‘No, stop. I asked you along to have a good time. I’ve laid on booze, food, drugs. You’re hurting me, stop.’ Grigoriy punched my face. I yelled again. ‘Stop. Stop, stop…’

‘What’re you doing?’ I asked Melanie, my wife. She was leaning over me. She had her hands on my shoulders.

‘I’ve been shaking you,’ she said. ‘You must have been having a nightmare. You were yelling, shouting, tossing and turning. You seemed to be in a hell of a state. I’ve been trying to wake you for ages. What was it all about?’

I sat up, rubbed my eyes, and looked at her. ‘Well, it’s a long story. I was at a party with all the characters in my books. It was fun and wild, until the storm. Then a couple of my baddie guys got hold of me and started hitting me.’

My wife looked at me. She shook her head. ‘I see.’ She smiled. ‘That’ll teach you, writing about such nasty things. Want a cup of coffee?’

Harry Fingle, Jimmy Ali, Richard Morecombe, Amie Lau, Alex Gould, and Kate Fisher came from Playing Harry.

Guy Middleton, Leonard Catsimatidis, and Jorge from Murder He Forgot.

Monroe Lidlington and Stevie from Death in The Fishing Net.

Sam Crichton, Jerome, and Julie Crichton from Killing Sam Forever.

Barry CarterJo Sykes, George Myrivitis, Bruce Thompson, and Tammy from Electronic Crime in Muted Key.

Grigoriy Nabutov from The Bloodied Black Heart.

Emma from The Wrong Menu.

For more see: Other books I’ve written.

My new book, Otto and Frankie, is available from September 4th.

Good news is sadly scarce these days. You have to search well beyond the front few pages or posts to get away from the virus and its long tentacles, the nose-diving world economy, our neglect of the climate emergency, racial injustice, politicians lying and posturing, and the wars and famine which haven’t gone away, to find something positive, but this clip – A high street bistro that really delivers – is worth a read, if not for the facts and useful information, but for the way it’s written and underlying humour. 

Côte, a high-street bistro chain offering well-priced, good French food, have developed a range called Côte at Home. Jay Rayner, The Guardian’s restaurant critic, was expecting a delivery from Côte at Home, but at 9:30 pm it was cancelled: not a smart move to inflict on a national newspaper’s restaurant critic.  Jay recalls how he got his delivery, and that of five others, reinstated, and then praises Côte’s offering, as well as that of another home delivery company, Dishoom. Few good things have come out of this crisis, these two companies surely are two of them. I’m already checking if they deliver to our postcode area.

‘The thing is that Côte at Home is really good. Not just “good considering they’re a high-street chain”, or “not bad at the price”. It’s proper good, in the way you tell your neighbours about over the garden wall while dissing the government’s latest knuckle-dragging stupidity. The online selection is so extensive – not just ready meals but cheeses, wines and butchery – that I wondered whether a food service company was involved. Apparently not. Côte introduced a central kitchen for some of their dishes a while back and, with the additions of a few buy-ins, it all comes from there.’ Jay Rayner, The Guardian. More:

Who do I write for?

I get asked that question quite often, but I’m never able to give a precise answer.

I guess it’s anyone over eighteen who likes strong characters, personal conflict, emotional turmoil, an engrossing story that sucks you in, rolls along at a pace, and asks questions of the reader. I don’t write crime thrillers anymore, or about violence. I prefer to write about people and how they deal with life’s challenges. I draw my characters in some detail, including their looks, dress style, likes and dislikes, background, faults and weaknesses, interaction with friends and lovers – present and ex – and how they confront the real but rare situations I put them in. My stories are not about normal, uneventful lives, nor are they unlikely fantasies. They are about life changing situations and how people manage.    

I write to entertain, but ultimately, I write for myself, and find pleasure and satisfaction from doing that. I heard once a famous American author answer the question, ‘Who do you write for?’ ‘Myself,’ he retorted unequivocally. He went on to say that if he tried to please an audience, he wouldn’t be true to himself, ‘Better to write for yourself. Your readers will like or dislike your books, but you will have established your style and readers will know what to expect. They can decide to read your books or not.’ He was highly acclaimed and successful. 

So, that’s the long answer to, Who do you write for? The short answer – myself and anyone who enjoys a gritty tale about life’s dramas. 

My new book, Otto and Frankie, will be available from September 4th in paperback and as an e-book. To pre-order the e-book go to, amazon.com, amazon.co.uk.    

Still hopeful

I added a line to my twitter profile this week – still hopeful. With bad news having such great press at the moment ­– Corvid 19 and all its repercussions, crashing economies, wars, famine, racism, stabbings, shameful politicians, and more – you may well ask how I can justify that line.

Looking back to a blog post I wrote on 24th March – The sun is shining, and the world will go on (scroll down to read), –  where I believed man would find a way to halt the Coronavirus and deal with the economic devastation it caused, much progress has been made. Let’s take stock.

Vaccines normally take many years before they are available for use. Imperial College and Oxford University in the UK have their vaccines in trial now, with Imperial College making plans for the production of 2 billion shots and Oxford University saying if their trial is successful, they’ll have 4 billion shots available worldwide by this time next year. There are at least four more vaccines being developed in the world that we know about. They all may fail, but the scientist involved seem hopeful. To get to this stage in a few months is staggering and beyond all expectations.

One medicine is already available that prevents some seriously ill patients from dying. More will come.   

That world economies have been hit hard is not in doubt. But politicians in charge of their country’s economy have gone the extra mile to cushion the damage, and they’ll do more. The future will be tough, sadly unemployment numbers will rocket, but politicians and financial institutions will be forced, if necessary, to do whatever it takes to stop the world imploding.        

Racism is vile, and the racism we’ve witnessed in the last few months is almost beyond understanding. But I sense change. The movement against racism is not going to go away, it’s going to get stronger and will not stop until the scourge of racism is banished. The world has had a wakeup call and will not tolerate inaction and going backwards.  

The majority of humanity is hopeful and caring. People want to live in a safe, peaceful world.  Man’s imagination and inventive mind has brought us to where we are, and will defeat the pandemic, its associated mayhem, and produce a better world. Of that I’m hopeful. 

Otto and Frankie.

Otto Georgeson and his daughter Frankie could not be more different. He’s rich, an acclaimed author, human rights activist, and lives in England. She lives in New York, just about survives from one pay cheque to the next and hasn’t seen or spoken to her father for twenty years. What follows is the beginning of the third chapter.

Frankie Georgeson

She twisted the ring through her lip a few times, checking in the mirror she’d put it in the right way. She saw in the reflection the discarded take-out food containers, the empty wine bottles lying on the stained floor, items of clothing dumped where they’d undressed with haste and passion, and a man asleep in her bed. She sighed, knowing her apartment looked the same most Sunday mornings. Sometimes there’d be ash, piled high in saucers, from the joints she and her latest pick-up had smoked. This time the guy had declined. ‘It’s high quality,’ Frankie had said, but he’d shaken his head, telling her he didn’t indulge.  

She wasn’t too bothered she could be called a slut, loosely behaved, promiscuous. ‘Men do it all the time,’ she’d told a friend, who’d heard she was sleeping with a different man nearly every Saturday night, picking them up at the club where she worked. ‘Monogamy sucks,’ she’d said, telling her friend she’d been faithful and devoted to her ex-partner for seven years. ‘Look what good it did me. He just told me one morning he was leaving me for another, gathered up his shit, and left that day.’ 

She’d been devastated, heartbroken, almost unable to function, trapped in a cage with her emotions, and started ‘multiple-dating,’ as she called it, to break with her long-standing morals. On one occasion she slept with a woman. None of her pick-ups lasted beyond a coffee in the morning, which she was fine about. Sex with no strings became her rule.  

But that morning, the man in her bed who said his name was Johnny, offered to help clear up, and when he’d done so, took her out for brunch, and walked back with her to her apartment along the shoreline of Fresh Creek Basin. He came back inside, and they watched a movie. Later she cooked an omelette and some sauté potatoes for them both, and they drank the remains of the wine from the night before. He said he had to go at 9:00 p.m., and he did, saying he’d call.  

Frankie shrugged as she’d closed the door. A great day, she thought. He’s different, unlike any man I’ve met. She shook her headBut I’ll never see him again. Of that I’m sure.

Otto and Frankie is due out on September 4th.

They gave me the beach back

Some days the sandy beach stretches for about half a mile down to the distant blue sea, glistening in the sun, sitting high in a cloudless sky. Seagulls sweep and soar, at times descending at speed to a few inches from the water’s surface where they scavenge and fight with others for food. Sand dunes, at the beach’s edge, flutter and sway in the gentle breeze, seemingly wistful in their shape and form. A lone boat in full sail glides into the outer reaches of the harbour, making the only ripples in a calm sea. Sunbathers stretch out, parents build sandcastles and big fort-like constructions, dog walkers exercise their dogs, families picnic, and bathers paddle around in the shallow water, timidly inching deeper into the cool sea until they can’t delay the inevitable any longer and dive headlong into the water, splashing and swimming with vigor until their bodies adjust to a wet and chilly sensation.        

And then there are windy days when small white crests top the jagged-looking waves, and kite surfers race across the sea’s surface at speeds up to 40mph, changing direction at the end of their long stretches by jumping out of the water and twisting their board around 180° to head back from where they came, a feat they make easy but in reality breathtaking. Days when the wind is so strong that sand flurries swirl around, sometimes stinging your face. In winter these are bracing days, wrap up well days and days to prepare for watery eyes from the cold.

I love the beach at all times, summer and winter, sunny or not, and once I knew the beaches were open again, I headed off to West Wittering Beach, one of the UK’s best, and close to where I live. Familiar with the beach, I headed away from the popular area to round West Head to find an empty beach, peaceful and tranquil.

As I walked, I thought of Otto, one of the main characters in my novel, Otto and Frankie, due out in September. Here’s the opening lines:    

The water is clear. Gentle waves lap on the sand, covering for a fleeting moment a broken white shell in their effervescentfoam, and I realise I’m standing on a beach, a beach I know and love, but I have no idea how I come to be in this place.It’s as though I’ve woken to find myself here, conveyed like in a sci-fi movie from one point in time to another, unaware of the journey: no sensation, no memory, no recollection of anything. A breeze on my face, a bright sun shining in the blue sky, a flat, clear sparkling sea, clean sand and emptiness – no people, no dogs, just an open space. Low tide, mud flats stretching for miles, and across the water an island, Hayling Island I think, gleaming in the still, morning light… More  

‘This whole thing’s a bit of a bummer.’

That was how my10 ½ year-old grandson from Australia described the pandemic. Quite sort of charming, I thought, compared to all the other descriptions akin to an apocalypse. The pandemic is grim, the world, especially the UK, should have been better prepared, but we’ll come through it, and the world will recover, and if we’re smart, it’ll be a better place. 

For climate deniers it poses a dilemma, finally trashing their false propaganda that man has not caused climate change. Why are the skies brighter? Why has environmental pollution fallen to levels not experienced for fifty years, and why does the air feel cleaner? Surely, it’s not because there are no polluting planes in the air or cars on the road?  

To have a world without planes and motor vehicles is not feasible, but we can learn, and stop polluting the world so much. A forty percent reduction in flying and use of motor vehicles, not immediately but over five to ten years, would make a significant contribution to reaching our goal of zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Building a green economy, and by that, I mean developing a product, practice, and service that moves us away from a fossil-fuel driven economy to an environmentally friendly one will need investment and people. It’s investing in new jobs and a greener, sustainable future.   

Has the NHS reached its zenith? The whole nation applauds it and the people who work within it every Thursday. And rightly so. Sadly, it’s taken a pandemic where thousands have died to make politicians realise that never again can the NHS be allowed to be under resourced. It has reached its zenith at this time, dealing with the pandemic with devotion, professionalism, grit, and love. But resourced properly, the best is yet to come.     

And the same goes for all other key sectors and those that work within them. They’ve been under resourced and under rewarded, and that needs to be rectified as well. 

By being smart and empathetic to these needs we’ll come out of this crisis building a better, fairer, greener world. 

Introducing Otto

Otto Georgeson is one of the two main characters in my new book, Otto and Frankie. He’s fifty-five, an acclaimed author, a human-rights activist, and a much loved and respected man. He’s married to Holly and has two twin sons. Over his writing career, his books have sold well, received many brilliant reviews, and he’s won the Booker prize twice. Two of his books have been adapted for the big screen. But after his last book, he tired of writing and wanted to give something back. 

He put it like this, ‘I’d stopped writing novels a few years back, and after seeing the complete dereliction of care, compassion, and responsibility from the world’s leaders for the millions of refugees seeking sanctuary, I decided to take up their cause. I’d found my so-called status as a best-selling author useful: it opened doors. I’d lobby the world’s leaders, threatening to go public if they didn’t agree to help. Some did help, some said maybe, and others refused. I didn’t go public on them, but believed I’d made progress. Some lives would be saved.’

The day he found out his cancer had returned, and he had three months to live, he learned that Holly had been having an affair with the wife of his best friend. Shocked, distraught, and saddened, he decides to ignore Holly’s behaviour, focus on his work for refugees, and do whatever he can to find his long-lost daughter, Frankie.

More about Otto, Frankie and the other characters later. Otto and Frankie is out in September. 

Who doesn’t find these times difficult? No one I know. But regardless of the virus, these few months were going to be an in-between time for me anyway. I finished a book last year, we went to Australia in January and early February, and when we returned, I’d planned to set about catching up on things I’d put off before, leaving them until I’d completed the book. Media pressure telling us to keep busy, motivated me to clear up my unattended tasks in record time, and with my new book, Otto and Frankie, not due to be published until September, I had to think about what I’d do next.

Although there was plenty of tidying up from winter, and spring/summer preparation to do in the garden, I was kind of relieved when an old rose arbour showed serious signs of imminent collapse. This was an immediate danger. The arbour roof was tiled, and should it have collapsed, which I was sure it would do at any moment, it would have crashed to the ground, smashing the stone path and crushing all the new green shoots in the nearby border – let alone slicing my wife’s or my or both our heads open should we have been close by at the time of its self-demolition. There was nothing for it but to take it down. The morning after I’d discovered its decline, relieved it hadn’t fallen down in the night, my wife and I started to take it apart. Apart from the fear of being buried under it, should it break away from its last remaining supports, we knew, in the current circumstances, we wouldn’t have been welcomed at A&E. We completed it without any damage to the garden and us, although until the tips reopen, its dismembered parts are stacked out of site.

I thought about starting on a new book but binned the idea quite soon after – I had no idea what I’d write about and found concentration hard in these troubled times. In the hope I’d find inspiration for a short story, I started revisiting my past writings. I found a small piece, no more than 600 to 700 words, that I’d written some years back for a local publication. It was about a man who found his lost father, and it inspired me to write The parents I did not meet

My version of Paul Simon’s classic song 50 ways to leave your lover, changed to 50 ways to stay in lockdown follows this post.

I’ll be posting more about Otto and Frankie, due out in September, later. In the meantime, follow the link.  

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‘Imagine all the people, living life in peace.’ John Lennon

Imagination: the wonderful ability of the mind to be creative, the source of films and plays, the food for writers and artists, where chefs’ search for new dishes, the driver of innovation, and the vision for a better future, is also best remembered as having the title role in John Lennon’s iconic song, Imagine, in 1971.

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You, you may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man 

Lennon would have been 80 last week. December this year will be the 40th anniversary of his tragic death when he was shot outside his home in New York. At the time of the song, many said he was a dreamer (his own words) and naïve. But was he? Look at some of the lyrics:  

Nothing to kill or die for.

Imagine all the people – Living life in peace. 

No need for greed or hunger.
A brotherhood of man. 

Who’d disagree with any of that. All noble aspirations that most citizens of the world would want. Nothing revolutionary, no coups, no bloodshed, just peace and harmony. Sadly, 49 years on since he wrote it, our world leaders still have much to do. 

For me, the song was beautiful, relevant, and a goal for the world, telling us what needed to done if humanity was going to progress. We have moved forward since 1971 in many ways, but there’s still much work in progress, and right now it could feel we’re going backwards. 

By 2013, Imagine had sold over 1.6 million copies in the UK. More than 200 artists have performed or covered the song, including Madonna, Stevie Wonder, Joan Baez, Lady Gaga, Elton John and Diana Ross. After Imagine was featured at the 2012 Summer Olympics, the song re-entered the UK Top 40, reaching number 18. In March 2020, in response to the unfolding coronavirus pandemic, the actress Gal Gadot posted an informal but star-studded cover version of Imagine on Instagram. Wikipedia.

So, to our world leaders I say, take a few minutes to listen and learn from it, and try harder.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

I’m told it’s a compelling read.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com

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The Times They Are-A Changin’

The lyrics to Bob Dylan’s iconic song of 1964, The Times They Are A-Changin’ seem more apt than ever. With the impending divisive US presidential election, Covid 19 and the huge challenges in its wake, the UK setting itself adrift from the EU – the biggest trading bloc in the world – and the climate crisis, you couldn’t have imagined a more toxic bunch of hurdles before us. Dylan’s words in the third verse, Come senators, congressmen…, apply to all politicians wherever they areLet’s hope they heed the call.  

Come gather ’round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan

Meanwhile, back home, where weak sun shines on fading leaves, soon to explode in a riot of autumn colours before fluttering down to the ground, plants well past their best slowly hunker down for winter, tall grasses flutter in the light breeze and probably stay that way until the first frost freezes their wispy tufts hard and makes them look like frozen spears, it’s autumn. 

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

I’m told it’s a compelling read.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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Days without end

Days Without End is the title of the epic and intimate novel by Sebastian Barry that manages to create spaces for love and safety in the noise and chaos of history, and one of my best reads.  It could also be an apt description of the extraordinary troubling times the world is going through. The daily dose of depressing news seems relentless.

But I’m an optimist, inspired by how mankind and individuals have overcome terrible events and personal traumas to build a better future. ‘Hope springs eternal,’ first used by an English essayist in 1732 describing mankind’s continuum of hope, sounds a better slogan to me.

I get that there has to be a plan and belief to overcome adversity but think how Nelson Mandela would have coped with thirty years imprisonment if he hadn’t had hope,  how hope and belief drove Alexander Fleming to discover antibiotics, and how the British people during the Second-World-War hoped the war would end the way it did.

Without hope history would have been very different.

Let me share some reasons for hope. 

Firstly, the virus. 

Many people in the know are saying vaccines will be available for Covid-19 next year, even a chance that they’ll be one ready for selected immunisation by the end of the year: China and Russia say they are vaccinating key workers already. The earlier vaccines may have limitations, but they’ll start to stop the virus’s spread, and further development will improve them, as has happened in almost every medical advance in history. Several treatments are now in use by doctors and medical staff to lessen the severe effects of the virus, bringing the death rate down. 

The doomsters say vaccines may not work, it’ll take several years to vaccinate the world’s population, they’ll be many non-vaxers, and more. Oh yeah; but look at the positive. At the outset of the pandemic, commentators said it’ll take years to have a 100% effective vaccine, and it may, but at the least, in just over nine months, we have several vaccines in trails that are showing promising results. That’s positive, and meanwhile new treatments for Covid patients  will be discovered while the existing ones improve. Man’s ingenuity knows no bounds. We can send a rocket millions of light years away in space to land on a spec on a distant planet.   

The virus is devastating, a million people have died worldwide, but we may be at the beginning of the beginning, and a tiny spec of light flickers at the end of the tunnel.

Climate Crisis

This week Marks and Spencer announced the end to selling milk and milk products produced from cows fed on soya grown in destroyed rain forests. In future they will only sell milk products from cows fed on an environmentally friendly feed. This is a huge step to push back on the climate crisis, and, I’m sure, many more food retailers will follow, if they already haven’t.

In Turkey, where coral reefs are dying because of global warming and man’s sea pollution, scientist have discovered ways to transplant live coral alongside almost extinct coral, which in time regenerates the reef, saving it, and bringing it back to full health.  

Also this week from China: “We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060,” Chinese President Xi Jinping told the United Nations General Assembly via a video link on 22 September.

All of this is encouraging, to be applauded, fuelling my optimism that man is inherently progressive, and despite setbacks and some politicians trying to manipulate events for their owns agendas, a great many people – scientists, doctors, medical practitioners, commentators, campaigners, social workers, and even sane politicians, and many others – are working to make this a better world.

Stay safe.

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in all formats. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. 

I’m told it’s a compelling read.

amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

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What next?

The book’s published, promotion work is ongoing, I’ve done an interview with a friendly freelance journalist, hoping to find a magazine or newspaper willing to print it, and I’m left thinking about my next project.

I could give the garden an autumn make-over, sign up to an online cooking course, make an extra loaf of bread every day, start a new fitness regime, read more, watch old movies I’ve seen several times, and go for long walks. 

But my yearning to write is strong. I want to create a story again, invent new characters, contrive events, think up dramas, build in suspense, and figure out all the other facets that makes a book compelling. I’ll tend to the garden, make bread, keep fit, investigate new recipes, watch movies, and read, but no more or less than I do now, whereas writing will become my main event. It’s what I enjoy the most. 

First; I’ll be publishing a trio of short stories in October or November. Then I’ll start on a new novel, and whilst writing it, I’ll post my progress and a few snippets on my website, plus more short stories. 

Two of the trio of short stories to be published can be read on this site.

The parents I did not know

The night my characters came for their revenge 

My latest book, Otto and Frankie, is available in paperback and e-book. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. I’m told it’s a compelling read.

E-book at promotional price until 30 September: amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

Paperback: amazon.    

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A friend calls

My friend Billy (not his real name) who’s a journalist, breezed in on Saturday morning, unannounced. His purpose, he said, as I pushed a coffee his way, was to complement me in person on my latest book, Otto and Frankie. ‘Best you’ve written, and one of the best I’ve read,’ he said. Knowing Billy for some time, someone not flush with complements, and who reads many books, I figured he’d had a touch too much to drink the previous night and was confusing me for someone else. But then he went on to say he wanted to do an interview with me about the book and could we do it right then. Putting back my Saturday gardening plans, I agreed. He didn’t say when the interview would be published, I suspect it won’t, but here’s some of the better bits.

Billy: So? Why did you write Otto and Frankie?

NW: I wanted to write about people dealing with life’s crises; and I thought being told you had three months to live, finding out your wife was having a bizarre affair, and meeting up again with a long-lost daughter – who becomes your greatest admirer and proponent of your values – were tough challenges and could be the human dynamics to drive a story.   

B: Who did you model Otto on? Is he your alter ego?

NW: No, he’s not. But I wanted to create a noble guy with a strong personality and well-liked. I guess I do have similar traits and values to Otto.

B: Do you think Otto was unkind to Holly?

NW: Stand-offish, maybe. No, not unkind. Look; he had three months to live, discovers his wife, who he adored and thought she did him, was having a most unusual affair, and is trying to keep fighting for his cause till his last breath. Confused, sad, but not unkind. I write the stories; readers will form their own opinions.

B: You chose evocative settings with West Wittering and the nearby beach. Do you know them?

NW: I do. We live close to West Wittering and walk on the beach often. The beach is beautiful at any time of the year and all times of the day and tide, and I hope I got that across.

B: You describe Otto’s house and garden as comfortable and stylish, but not much detail. Why’s that?

NW: I wanted the beach, the characters, their actions, thoughts and emotions to be the main events. Too much detail on house décor would have been a distraction. Anyway, the shiny lifestyle magazines do that better than me. 

B: Moving on to Holly’s affair. That sort of thing is quite normal these days. Why did you make a big thing of it? 

NW: You’re right. It is, but if you remember Otto said he wasn’t worried about who the affair was with, just that Holly had an affair at all that threw him. Having only three months to live, and then finding out his wife was unfaithful almost crushed him had it not been for his indomitable spirit and Frankie’s support. 

B: Frankie could not be more different to her father and didn’t really know him. Isn’t it more likely she would have found him and the family rich, posh strangers, said her goodbyes to her father, and headed back to New York?

NW: She did initially find them like you described, but it didn’t last. She soon recognised her father as the kind noble man he was, and found the rest of the family – Holy, and her and Otto’s twin sons – friendly and trying their hardest to make her feel at home. As the days went on, and her admiration for her father grew, she wanted to stay to the end. And of course, deep down, she had a kind, loving nature, repressed by her tough time in New York, but flourished by the time spent with her dad and the family.

B. In the second part of the book, Frankie becomes the protagonist and narrates the book in the first-person. Wasn’t that a bit of a risk, given that Otto’s part was so compelling, and he was clearly such a noble man?  

NW. Well, I drew them as complete opposites intentionally – Otto the good guy, Frankie a bit of a loser. But she came good and delivered on Otto’s goal despite the odds against her. I wanted to show how people can change. 

B: What was the bit you most liked writing?

NW: All of it. I bin bits I don’t like as I go along. But my favourites were Otto and Holly reflecting on the good times, and Frankie’s confrontational meeting with Otto’s brother. 

B: Any plans for the future?

NW: I’m working on some short stories, then a new book next year.

Otto and Frankie, is available in paperback and e-book. It’s different from anything else I’ve written and took almost three years in the making. 

It’s about a dying man’s fight against injustice, his wife’s unusual affair, and the love from his long-lost daughter. I’m told it’s a compelling read.

E-book at promotional price: amazon.co.uk. amazon.com.

Paperback: amazon.    

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