Thursday, 23 November 2017

The End is Nigh!

I went into the Unbound offices today to sign some Special Edition copies of A Murder To Die For. Well, I say 'some'; just short of 250 lovely people pledged (pre-ordered) at the signed book level or higher.

As you may know, I raised the money for this book by public subscription - just as Dickens and Dr Johnson did back in the day - and worked with the innovative and award-winning Unbound publishing house. You can visit the book's campaign page here where you can still order a Special Edition (though the signed ones have now all gone). It has a heavier weight and better quality paper than the trade editions that will go into shops and are decorated with bronze metal foil etc. They are quite beautifully produced.

My wrist has just about recovered now but the pain was worth it. The books look absolutely gorgeous. And the excellent news is that - signed or unsigned - they will start winging their way out to subscribers next week. Meanwhile the trade editions will start appearing in shops on the 25th January and can already be pre-ordered from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, W H Smith and many other online booksellers.

And there's more good news - the rights to the audiobook have now been purchased and I'll be recording that early in the New Year. A large print edition will be produced too.

AND, to top off an excellent week, Unbound have said yes to the sequel. So, in January, I'll be kicking off the campaign to get The Diabolical Club funded.

I'm hoping it funds a little quicker; it took nearly 12 months for 'Murder' to reach 100% and, when it did, we missed the window for a Spring 2017 release and had to wait a further year for publication (Spring/Summer is the optimum time for fiction releases). If I can get the sequel funded more quickly, it could be out just a year after A Murder To Die For.

Exciting times!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

All in the Mix

A Murder To Die For has arrived!

The printers have done their job and there are boxes and boxes of copies in the warehouse now, ready for distribution to shops in January (although subscribers to the special edition will get theirs in the next few weeks). It's all over bar the shouting.

But what inspired the book in the first place?

Britain has a great tradition of comic novel writing and I wanted to add to the canon. We produced Jerome K Jerome, George and Weedon Grossmith, Stephen Potter, Sellar and Yeatman, Frank Richards, Willans and Searle and the glorious P G Wodehouse. The baton then passed to humorists like Richard Gordon, George Macdonald Fraser, John Mortimer, Stella Gibbons, David Nobbs, Sue Townsend, B S Johnson, Helen Fielding, Michael Frayn and the late, great Tom Sharpe. These days it’s hard to find comedy that’s written for a general readership but it can still be found as a subsection of other genres. There are still plenty of laughs in women’s fiction, for example, and, thanks to people like Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, Tom Holt and Terry Pratchett there are chuckles a-plenty to be had among the wizards and aliens too. I also wanted to write a murder mystery - a comedy murder mystery. Admittedly, such things are thin on the ground but they do exist: Mike Ripley’s Angel series, or Simon Brett’s Charles Paris books, for example. Crime comedy is more commonly found in TV shows.

So I set about writing the book. And inspiration came from many directions. The first element in the mix was my own love of classic crime fiction. I thoroughly enjoy a good whodunit and I’ve read almost everything written by the likes of Christie, Marsh, Allingham, Sayers, Conan Doyle et al. I also like TV whodunits … but not cop shows. Like many police officers – or ex-police officer as I am now – I find them difficult to watch because everything is overly-dramatic, the procedures are all wrong and I can't suspend my disbelief if the programme makers try to sell it as ‘real-life’ when I know that it isn’t even close. But classic TV murder mystery is a different thing altogether. It doesn’t pretend to be real. It’s delightfully silly and set in a world far-removed from reality; a world of poisons, elaborate alibis and ridiculous mechanisms. And beyond Poirot and Marple there are shows set in the 20th century that have that same silliness to them as well, such as Murder She Wrote, Columbo, Jonathan Creek and Midsomer Murders. The latter, with its fa├žade of cop show, is deliciously bonkers at times; any script that features someone being staked out on their croquet lawn and then being bludgeoned to death by having their wine collection hurled at them by a replica Roman trebuchet has my vote any day.

The second element in my mind-mix came from visiting a number of fan conventions, most notably Comicon in San Diego, where the fans dress up in costume – cosplayers – and are almost rabidly passionate about their show/film/book/author of choice. These photos I took may give you a flavour of what I mean.

The third element was my own knowledge and experience of being a police officer. When these three elements came together - murder mystery, cosplaying fandom, my policing experience – with my desire to write a comic novel, I suddenly realised that I had the perfect setting. What better place for a murder than a crime fiction convention? It was too good an idea to pass up and, after some seven months of research and writing, I’d produced A Murder To Die For. The novel is set at an annual event held in the little village of Nasely to celebrate its most famous resident, the late Golden Age crime fiction writer Agnes Crabbe. Crabbe’s greatest creation is sassy amateur sleuth Miss Millicent Cutter and most of the attendees at the event have turned up in dressed as her. So, when a grisly murder is committed, the police find themselves having to investigate a case where the victim, the witnesses and very possibly the perpetrator are all dressed much the same – even the men. And, to add their annoyance, they find themselves having to compete with the Crabbe fans. Much of the humour in the book comes from the clash of cultures between the efficient, business-like and procedurally driven modern police service and the hordes of murder mystery fans who believe that they too can solve the crime using skills honed by a lifetime of reading crime fiction.

So that's why I wrote it.

Now all you have to do is read it.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Cornish Crime Wave - 1967 Style

I thought this might amuse you.

I was rummaging through some old boxes of knick-knacks and gewgaws recently and discovered this - a crime report taken by my late father in 1967. This is the same Dad whose incomplete murder mystery novel I've included parts of in A Murder To Die For.

Dad initially joined the Met in London in 1959 but became homesick very quickly and transferred home to what was then the Cornwall Constabulary. It eventually amalgamated with the Devon and Exeter Constabulary and the City of Plymouth Police in 1969 to become the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary; which is why, I assume, the report was taken on Devon notepaper even though Dad was never posted outside of Cornwall. I guess they were using up old stocks of forms.

The photo does get a bit bigger if you click on the image but, if you still can't read the body of the report, here's what it says:

'I wish to complain about a cigarette machine outside the Chyveston Garage. I have obtained two packets of cigarettes from this machine and each time the change in the packet wrapper is short, which suggests that someone is taking a 1d out replacing this with a 1/2d.' 

If you're a mere stripling or a chit of a girl/boy you may not remember that cigarettes were once both fashionable and affordable and you could buy 20 fags for around 20p in 1967. Or, rather, four shillings which equated to 20p back then. But discounted ciggies cost slightly less - in this instance 3s/11d so the manufacturers put a penny change inside the cellophane wrapper. How the alleged criminal got the packet of ciggies out of the machine, got the penny out of the cellophane, replaced it with a ha'penny, and then put the packet back inside the machine is a mystery.

I suspect that cigarette prices had gone up half a penny and taken the angry Mr L G Williams of Zelah by surprise. Otherwise, why stop at fleecing people of a mere ha'penny? If you have that much access to the machine JUST NICK THE FAGS AND SELL THEM.

When this incident happened my dad was a community bobby, riding around the local area on his police bike. We lived in the police station at Blackwater, near Truro. Well, a bungalow with an office attached that served as the local police station.

And I rode a police bike too. You can see me here on the right.

Just like CHiPs, eh? Obviously I'm the cool Erik Estrada character.

Erm ... if you're old enough to remember the TV series CHiPs of course.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

And the Winner is ... #3

Hearty congratulations to this month's winners - Adrian Belcher and Alison Burns - who win the final two signed book cover prints.

And both winners are from Gloucestershire! There must be something in the water ...

This one was a bit tougher than the previous two competitions but there were plenty of you who got the answers right. However, Alison and Adrian were first out of the hat, so commiserations to the rest of you.

Take solace from the fact that there are two more competitions left so you never know your luck!

So, to the answers. They were:

1. Tom (Jones). Barn. Abby (Sciuto from NCIS) = Tom Barnaby.
2. Jay Z. (Ford) Ka. (Darren) Fletcher = Jessica Fletcher.
3. Naan. Seed. Roo = Nancy Drew.
4. Law. Ra. Time = Laura Thyme.
5. Tin. Tin = Tintin.
6. Jewel. May. (Charles) Gray = Jules Maigret.
7. Temper. Ants. Bren (Gun). Nan = Temperance Brennan.
8. Vel. Mad. Ink. Lee (Evans) = Velma Dinkley.
9. Tommy. And. Tuppence. (Polar) Bears. Ford (Cortina) = Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. 
10. (Queen) Anne. Dee (Hepburn). (Jack) Dee. Yell = Andy Dalziel.

Well done if you got them all! Another competition in November!

 Oh, and while you're here, just look at this ... the proofs are back from the printers and the book looks amazing. We've told them to print the run. So close I can almost smell them now!