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Femme fatale

Just recently, I’ve been thinking about femme fatales. Not through any personal desire, you understand, but merely in a writing context. Femme fatale (“that’s yer actual French,” as Delboy might say) translates as “fatal woman”, which is quite a burden to carry if you think about it. Of course, the femme fatale is a staple diet of cinema, especially from the noir films of the thirties and forties. I think here of Rita Hayworth in Gilda, Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity. Then we can come right up to date with Sharon...

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War in literature

There have been many great books written about and around war. Take Grahame Greene’s Our Man in Havana, the 18th of his 27 books, which is set in Cuba during the Cold War and which pastiches many of the spy novels of the time and lampoons both British and American spy agencies. Another of his novels, The Quiet American, is set during the Vietnam War. I have mentioned Joseph Heller in a previous blog, but his Catch-22 is undoubtedly a book that delivers a punch when it comes to psychological warfare. His “hero”, Yossarian, is a bombardier in Italy during...

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Sporting authors

I have been a fan of Burnley FC since February 1964, when a mate invited me up to White Hart Lane to see his favourite team play. I had never been too interested in professional football, preferring the kick-arounds we had down the local park and out on the Butts. But I went with him, and then felt that I should support the opposition just to wind him up! Burnley were two-up inside four minutes in the FA Cup tie, and my heart was lost to the team! The fact that Spurs eventually ran out 4-3 winners did not dampen...

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It could have been so different!

When my first book was rolling round my head, I knew immediately what it would be called. After all, the fictional town of Bakerton had been my first inspiration, closely followed by its enigmatic and unorthodox sheriff, even before the crux of a plot ever developed. But this got me to thinking: had other authors experienced name changes before settling on their seminal works? Of course they had! Let’s start with our old friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. He toyed with Trimalchio in West Egg, Under the Red, White and Blue, and The High-Bouncing Lover, among others, before reluctantly settling on...

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Celebrating the pioneers

I have been working with words since I started my apprenticeship as a proof-reader/compositor at the age of sixteen. That was a little over a month after England had won the World Cup! In the intervening years, I have learnt about many people who have shaped the history of the printed word – people like Eric Gill and Adrian Frutiger (check them out!). But the pioneers we should all really look up to are Johann Gutenberg and William Caxton. In the old days, vast tomes had to be hand-written by learned scribes using quills and woodcuts, but some time around...

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Music, maestro!

After receiving the book proof of Thurlow Junction, my mind wandered to a quote in it that I am particularly proud of. While chasing the baddie in his beloved MX5, Sheriff Withers contemplates turning on his CD of Django tunes. But: “He needed to concentrate, not be wafted away into some dark, smoky French jazz club, where sinewy women and beret-wearing stevedores locked hips together over cheap whisky and Gauloises cigarettes.” Withers just loves Django, as do I. Funny that! Django Reinhardt was a Belgian gypsy who grew up to become one of the greatest jazz guitarists of all time....

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What’s in a name?

I find that one of the most enjoyable parts of writing a novel is the creation of the characters’ names. Take, for instance, Mr Sumo, my villain in Thurlow Junction. As I make clear: “He wasn’t Japanese. And he wasn’t a wrestler. But Mr Sumo was a very large man. And a very strong one.” I wanted my villain to be the cool ninja-type who excels and glories in the absolute skill that he possesses – the art of killing people without use of weapons. I also visualised him wearing a huge red kimono and enjoying the beauty of his...

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Blowing my own trumpet

I’d like to share with you a couple of reviews we got for Bakerton: “This book is a great read! There are lots of twists and turns to the storyline which keeps your intrigue in the novel to the end.” “An absolutely exciting novel … can’t wait for the next one.” All very satisfying, of course, and I don’t see a problem with any author blowing his or her own trumpet. After all, Joshua did all right round the walls of Jericho, and Miles Davis certainly blew a mean trumpet. But then I got to thinking about the origins of...

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