Thursday, 13 April 2017

Holy City: book review

What have I been reading recently?  An Argentinian novel actually.  I picked up Holy Land by Guillermo Orsi because, set in Buenos Aires, it seemed as if it was going to be a noirish, hard-bitten detective novel.  The start of an Argentine equivalent of Scandi-noir perhaps.  Argie-noir?  It turned out to be more than a detective novel though.  It is a political and social critique of Argentine society, wallowing in corruption at every level from criminal drug cartels through police who are not averse to kidnapping wealthy tourists, and ordinary citizens fighting for survival every way they know how.  Even the one honest cop – Walter Carroza – is not averse to handing out summary justice.
At first I revelled in this brilliant account of a once rich country reduced to penury and chaos by corrupt politicians.  But gradually I began to sink in the mire of greed, and lost track of who might be honest and who not.  You might say that this was the purpose of Orsi’s writing, and I agree to a point.  But the chaotic jumps from backstories to the present left me uncertain as to what point in time I was at.  And soon everything simply became confusing and somewhat irritating.  I ploughed through to the end and yet I remain uncertain whether this novel is brilliant or merely pretentious.  I leave it to you to decide where you stand.
Just one more point.  Perhaps the parallel universe concept carried through to the real world, because the book is promoted as being the winner of the Dashiell Hammett Prize in 2010.  I have looked at all the Hammett Award listings online and cannot find Orsi or Holy City mentioned.  Maybe someone can enlighten me.

Holy City by Guillermo Orsi, Quercus, 2012

Friday, 17 March 2017

New Year Reviews

The reprints of my last three Falconers with Ostara Publishing has been delayed slightly but should happen soon!  In the mean time, I thought I would write some reviews of books I have been reading.  They are not neccessarily new, but just books I have picked from the shelves at my local library.  Here are the first two.

The Templar Succession by Mario Reading (Corvus, 2016)
When I picked this up at the library, I thought it was probably one of those thrillers mixing all-action stuff with Dan Brown-style resurrection of a shadowy knightly order set on saving the world from destruction.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The Templar connection is a minimal one – the main protagonist, John Hart, has a Templar ancestor, but appears to have been given the nickname of Templar with a sense of irony.  But this is the third book in a series and I can’t vouch for the strength of the Templar connection in the others.
John Hart is a photojournalist, who in 1998 stumbles on a house in the Balkan Conflict which is used by violent Serbians to rape young Muslim women.  The group of soldiers is led by The Captain, who keeps one of the young women, Lumnije, for himself.  When Hart finds the house, the soldiers are not there and he persuades Lumnije and a few other women to escape with him.  The Captain returns and hunts the escapees down.  Only Hart and Lumnije finally escape.
In 2015, Hart’s world is turned upside-down when he finds himself caring for Lumnije’s daughter.  He is forced to embark on a journey to find the girl’s father – the rapist and war criminal, The Captain.  The reader is not spared any of the brutality of the Kosovan conflict, nor the effect is has upon those involved with it.  It is a compelling read that draws you onwards through brutality and almost inconceivable evil.  It has left me wanting to seek out the earlier two stories in the series, and read them too.
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz (Orion, 2014)
Horowitz is of course an acclaimed author and writer of television series, including Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War.  Here he takes up the baton of Arthur Conan Doyle and gives us a view of a Victorian world after the presumed death of Sherlock Holmes and his arch-rival Professor Moriarty.  In true Conan Doyle style, Horowitz writes in the persona of a Dr Watson-type protagonist called Frederick Chase.  We, the readers, are led to believe that all that is conveyed to us is true – in the same way that Conan Doyle’s stories grew in the public’s eyes to blur the edges of fiction and reality.
Chase, a Pinkerton agent, has come all the way from the USA in pursuit of Clarence Devereux – a fiend in the mould of Moriarty, and who appears to be filling the void in England left by Moriarty’s death.  He meets up with Inspector Athelney Jones from Scotland Yard and helps identify the body of Moriarty.  Sherlock Holmes’ body, of course, has disappeared.  On the body they find a cryptic message from Devereux to Moriarty, and so begins a journey through the darkest corners of London in a hunt to find the evil American.  Inspector Jones, once a stumbling policeman humiliated by the brilliance of Sherlock (in a Conan Doyle story), has now modelled himself on Holmes.  So we have Jones and Chase instead of Holmes and Watson.

There is, of course, a magnificent and unexpected twist.  But I will not tell you what that is.  You will have to read Moriarty for yourself.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Just a small update

I have heard from Ostara that they hope to publish those three Falconer titles in the Autumn.  Then all the Falconer novels will be available in one place - from Ostara Publishing.  I recently had an email from one of my fans (I do have some!) expressing confusion over the arrival of Saphira Le Veske in 'Ritual of Death'.  There is a reference to her meeting Falconer earlier, but the previous novel - 'Great Beast' - does not mention her.  I was glad to clear up the apparent anomoly.
You see, there was a real-time gap between the two novels and in the mean time I was writing stories that appeared in the Medieval Murderers' books.  I always kept chronologically accurate, and in the anthology called 'House of Shadows', published in 2007, there is the story of Saphira's first meeting with William at Bermondsey Abbey.  When I later wrote 'Ritual of Death', Saphira already figured in his life.  I guess I should have made it clearer with a reference to the incident in the MM story!
My time recently has been somewhat preoccupied with my am-dram pursuits.  I was directing the famous farce by Noel Coward, 'Blithe Spirit'.  It was hard work as Coward's dialogue is so precise and wordy - tough for the actors. But we came up with a good production in the end, and had 91% ticket sales.

The seance

Monday, 13 June 2016


I have now obtained all the rights for my Falconer books, so Ostara will be publishing the three titles formerly published by Severn House.  They are "Falconer and the Ritual of Death", "Falconer's Trial", and "Falconer and the Death of Kings".  Look out for them.
I am still working on the Malinferno/Pocket novel - whenever am-dram allows it.  I have recently played two small parts in a beautiful play called "A Little Like Drowning", written by Anthony Minghella the renowned film director.  A story of Italian immigrants to the UK in the 1920s, it follows the life of Alfredo through to the 1960s.  I play the part of his father - the patriarch of the Mare family - and also the part later of an Irish priest.  This requires being able to speak English with first an Italian accent (plus some Italian), and then with an Irish accent.  It has been a nice challenge.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


I can't believe I have left it so long since my last entry.  I can only say that my hobby has completely occupied my time.  Am-dram, you are a hard mistress.  And I have had some time away in Turkey and the Algarve.

Tavira - Algarve

All I can say is a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Since then I have been busy building a series of sets for The Stables theatre production of Jeeves and Wooster, which is now culminating in full houses of veery happy people.  So it's back to the drawing board for my two writing projects.  I am concentrating on the Regency couple of Joe Malinferno and Doll Pocket and the novel of their exploits that is called "The Hieroglyph Murders".  Some of the characters from my short stories of the pair will reappear and be expanded from their cameo roles in the stories that saw the light of day in the Medieval Murderers books, "King Arthur's Bones" and "Hill of Bones".  French Egyptologist Jean-Claude Casteix and his wooden leg will figure prominently as Joe and Doll figure out why those attempting to decipher hieroglyphics are suddenly dying.  The ill-fated but intriguing Queen Caroline will also put in an appearance or two, along with other real-life people such as Champollion, the eventual decipherer of the Egyptian symbols.  IN this story, he gets considerable assistance in that task from an unexpected source.
Lovers of Falconer should not be disappointed though. I still have another tale in the pipeline, and I will finish it too before long.  If am-dram doesn't get too much in the way.

Thursday, 13 August 2015


Ah, there I was with last blog anticipating a new era in British politics post the General Election.  In the end it was all a complete let-down.  No slugging it out between Labour and Tory, no breakthrough by UKIP, no realignment of progressive parties to keep the Tories out.  No move towards PR as a result.  Same old Tory hierachy, now released (as we have already seen) to carry out it own extreme agenda irrespective of only getting 36% of the total vote.  I guess you can see where my sympathies lie!
Now we have a leadership contest for Labour that is creating real interest, and a man who has emerged from the 'loony left' to speak honestly and straightforwardly about issues that affect us all.  It's so refreshing that Jeremy Corbyn is clearly not in the mould of standard party hack that he is a tempting option to consider.  Some say he is unelectable as a Prime Minister - I say so what?  The next election is five years away, so in the mean time let's have Tory ideas tested against real left-wing opposition.
But I think I know in my heart that the norm will prevail, just as it did at the general election, and one of the other career politicians will come through.  But did you notice how Andy Burnham is now claiming he has never been part of the political establishment, or wrapped in the Westminster bubble? It's what I call the Corbyn effect.

On another tack completely, I recently read  a novel called "The Circle" by David Eggers.  It is the story of the takeover of society by an Internet company and its social media arm.  Some deride it as nonsense, but they mainly come from the rarified cyber world.  It does take current use of the Internet to an extreme, but it does show where it all could end up, if we are not careful.  Total absorbtion in social media networks, a life responding to Facebook and Twitter messages, the pressure to report everything we do in order to be seen to be sharing experiences.  The expunging of those who refuse to be online for their whole lives, with their every action and locale known by everyone.  All in the cause of sharing and being part of some insidious whole.  Read it - laugh in amusement, and growing horror.  I mean, do you really want a fridge that automatically orders more milk from a supermarket delivery service because it can't find any on its shelves?

Thursday, 23 April 2015


Here we are in the middle of a general election campaign that promises to produce a very interesting result.  And yet I can't get worked up about it.  I think it's because I just want to get to the finishing line now.  I've had enough of politicians promising all sorts of goodies, if I vote for them.  It would seem we can have lower taxes, higher pensions, more funding of the NHS and also cut the deficit at the same time.  Amazing how this can all be done just before an election, but not for the five years before it, and probably not for the next five years after it.  I also saw the end of a Nigel Farage interview on TV yesterday, where he actually said that, if the government lowered taxes, there could be an uplift in the economy that meant more income would flow into the Exchequer.  He insisted it could happen.  Not a matter to base your budget strategy on though, is it?

I am currently involved in the next Stables production, which is "Anne Boleyn" by Howard Brenton.  It is full of the political scheming around Henry VIII's desire for a divorce from his first wife, so he can marry the fecund Anne.  While Anne is shown as fervently for bringing Protestantism to England out of religious conviction, Henry is persuaded by a very different motive.  Not only will he become Head of the Church and be able to approve his own divorce, all monastic revenues will accrue to him and not the Pope.  Taxes and money make the world go round, then as now.

The play is seen through the eyes of James I, and he makes a very perceptive comment at the end of the play.  One that is pertinent in the present day of ISIS and Fundamentalist Christianity.  He says "Why is it that all we do in the name of God is always exactly the same as what we need to do in our own self-interest?"

Think on.