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 triangular 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 his last 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.

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They look so evil

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.

My tears for Beirut

The awful tragedy that befell Beirut last week (Tuesday) was ever so poignant for me. My son lived there for four years with his family and had only recently returned. I’ve been there several times, finding the city charming, interesting, lively, optimistic, and full of generous and hospitable people. My son and his wife have many friends there. He was staying at our house when the devastating explosion occurred. Many inhabitants lost their lives; thousands have been injured, and 300,000 homes have been destroyed. Lebanon was in a crisis before the explosion: the economy in free fall downwards, and Corona Virus taking a heavy toll with hospitals overflowing and unable to cope. Now it’s a catastrophe. Victims of the explosion are being treated in hospital car parks. 

For my son and his family, this is a very personal tragedy, and the same goes for me.

Beirut has been through a great deal: a 15-year civil war, a war with Israel, and a weak and ineffective government whose inefficiencies and corruption are widely believed to have caused the explosion. However, my visits to the city, talking to my son and his wife, and reports I’ve read in the media have led me to believe the Lebanese, especially those living in Beirut, believed the worst was behind them. They wanted change, and yearned for a progressive, safe, and financially sound future. Now their hopes and aspirations have been dashed.   

Media interviews with Beirut’s inhabitants tell of the sadness and catastrophe that’s hit them, but also their resilience. One woman was filmed in her wrecked apartment playing the piano. All around her windows had been smashed, furniture upended and destroyed, precious ornaments and framed photographs broken and scattered around in the debris. When asked if she was moving, she shook her head and said firmly, with her husband by her side, ‘No, we’ve lived here for 40 years and we will continue to live her. We’ll get through this.’             

Her resilience and bravery is impressive, but it’ll take more to get Beirut and Lebanon through this appalling calamity.   

How can you help        

Otto and Frankie, my latest book, is now available as a paperback. The e-book version, out on September 4, is available to pre order.

amazon uk

amazon com

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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 gas 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 coronavirus was lurking around the corner.

At about 5:30 pm, limbs aching and my throat parched, I dropped into one of the rather dilapidated garden chairs – hoping I wouldn’t worsen it’s decaying condition – holding a long glass of water. A few minutes later, the water gone and beginning to think about my supper, I realised a proper drink was needed to resuscitate me. After fixing myself a giant-sized gin and tonic, I returned outside to sit and watch the sun 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 with another large G & T close by. About half-an-hour later, I sat at the garden table looking at a plate of crispy king prawns and squid, peppers, fennel and lightly smashed new potatoes, topped with a spicy BBQ sauce and accompanied by a glass of red wine.  

Later, after sunset, with twilight descending and one or two bats swooping low, 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.                  

Looking for good news!

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.    

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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 scientists 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. 

Frankie is not like Otto

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. More-

They gave me the beach back

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 are 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 my 10 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 to a better, fairer, greener world.