Sunday, 28 January 2018

Well, it's been a cracking first week for A Murder To Die For.

Not only has it been sighted in a number of book shops but it's been seen on at least two tables. That, m'chums, is a big deal. Getting a table spot means that the shop has given prominence to the book (and how could they not with that fantastic Neil Gower cover art?) So hoorah!

Secondly, I can now reveal that there will be an audiobook version. It'll be available via Audible from all the usual outlets in May. And (fanfare) it's going to be read by the wonderful Rula Lenska. Isn't that fantastic?

When I heard the news I will happily admit that I had a tiny fan-boy flush of excitement. She's been in almost every show I love - from Doctor Who to Space 1999 and even a recent episode of Inside No.9. She was also Lintilla (or the 800,000,000,000 Lintillas) in the radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And not forgetting the classic Rock Follies of course.

Could I be happier with the choice of reader? Not much.

And The Diabolical Club has already reached 25% of its funding total.

There's a long way to go yet but what a great start!

Pledge here if you fancy helping to make the sequel a reality too.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Five, Four, Three, Two, One ... It's PUBLICATION DAY!

It's here at last! Publication day for A Murder To Die For. And on the birthday of such notables as Virginia Woolf, W Somerset Maughan, Etta James, John Cooper Clarke, Tobe Hooper and, of course, Robert Burns. The 25th January is also the day on which Leo Tolstoy, in 1851, wrote in his diary:

'Bought a horse which I don't need at all.'

I hope no one ever writes that about my book.

And so to my final murder-mystery countdown trivia fact ...

Countdown Fact #1: Agatha Christie was once investigated as a spy.

There are so many fascinating things to say about the Queen of Crime. We could talk about her mysterious disappearance in 1926. Or the fact that she's sold over two billion books and wrote the longest running play of all time - The Mouse Trap. Incidentally, did you know that one actor has appeared in every performance of the play since it began its run in 1952? The late Deryck Guyler can still be heard, via a recording, reading the radio news bulletin to this present day.

But the story I love is one that I discovered when working on the book Saving Bletchley Park with Dr Sue Black OBE. Here's an extract from the book:

'In November 1941, Bletchley Park experienced something of a panic. The cause, as unlikely as it sounds, was a new detective novel called N or M, written by the world’s greatest crime-novelist, Agatha Christie. In the book, her plucky heroes Tommy and Tuppence, are on the trail of Nazi spies working inside Britain. That, in itself, was hardly a problem for the staff of Station X. However, when this paragraph appeared at the end of Chapter 1, all kinds of alarms went off:

“I always introduce my guests," said Mrs Perenna, beaming determinedly at the suspicious glares of five people. "This is our new arrival, Mr Meadowes - Mrs O'Rourke." A terrifying mountain of a woman with beady eyes and a moustache gave him a beaming smile. "Major Bletchley." Major Bletchley eyed Tommy appraisingly and made a stiff inclination of the head. 

Mention of the name Bletchley in a book about spies was just too worrying a coincidence. To make matters worse, it was known that Christie was friends with Dilly Knox. MI5 immediately opened an investigation and sent agents to see Knox, suspecting that someone had perhaps been talking a little too openly about the work going on at BP. However, Knox was convinced that this was not the case and agreed to sound her out. He therefore invited Christie to his home in Naphill in Buckinghamshire and, over tea and scones, asked why she had named her character Major Bletchley. She replied, ‘Bletchley? My dear, I was stuck there on my way by train from Oxford to London and took revenge by giving the name to one of my least loveable characters'.’

Interesting, eh? As it happens, it is believed by many that Christie may also have got the name for her amateur lady sleuth from another train station - Marple, near Stockport.

So there you go, my final countdown fact. I hope you've enjoyed them.

A Murder To Die For is in the shops NOW and available to order online from all sites where books are sold.

The sequel, The Diabolical Club, is currently funding and needs your help. Please consider backing it here.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Five, Four, Three, Two ...

It's the eve of Publication Day for A Murder To Die For! So here's the fourth of five murder-mystery related trivia facts for the countdown...

Countdown Fact #2: Columbo's wife was a Starfleet captain.

Mrs Columbo got a lot of mentions during the TV series, usually because her shabby homicide detective husband mentioned her as a fan of a particular movie str, TV show or household product. But we never got to see her. Nor did she have a name; a recurring theme in the show as his name was never mentioned and even his dog was called ... dog.

However, during the 1980s Mrs Columbo got her own TV series. She drove his awful car, she referred to her husband as a lieutenant with the LAPD homicide division. And she was played by Kate Mugrew, who would achieve greater fame as Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager.

However, viewing figures were not good. And things were not helped by the fact that Peter Falk didn't endorse the show or appear in it.

And so, in effort to save it, the linkage between this Kate Columbo and the Mrs Columbo of the original television series was reduced, the name of the character was changed to Kate Callahan (after an off-screen divorce), and the series was renamed first Kate the Detective, followed by Kate Loves a Mystery. But the series still bombed.

Only 13 episodes were made.

Final fact tomorrow!

A Murder To Die For is in the shops on the 25th and available to pre-order online NOW from all sites where books are sold.

The sequel, The Diabolical Club, is currently funding and needs your help. Please consider backing it here.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Five, Four, Three ...

Publication Day for A Murder To Die For is the 25th.

Here's the third of five murder-mystery related trivia facts for the countdown...

Countdown Fact #3: 'Diagnosis: Murder' was a spin-off of a spin-off and tried to launch a number of other spin-offs. 

Everyone loves Dick Van Dyke, right? He's 92 and still going strong. In fact, he's older than sliced bread (sliced bread was first sold in 1928 whereas Van Dyke was born in 1925). He's also older than Anne Frank (born 1929). And he's just recorded a new album of songs. What an extraordinary chap.

Perhaps my favourite fact about him is that he's a very skilled 3D animator. He first caught the bug after buying a Commodore Amiga in 1991. He is credited with the creation of 3D-rendered effects used on Diagnosis: Murder and The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited. He continues to work with LightWave 3D. Amazing.

Diagnosis: Murder was built around his character, Dr Mark Sloan who first appeared in an episode of Jake and the Fatman, which, in turn, was a spin-off from Matlock. To complete the circle, Andy Griffith reprised his role of Matlock in an episode of Diagnosis: Murder. Other cross-overs included Mike Connors reviving his character Mannix, Barbara Bain reprising her Mission: Impossible role of Cinnamon Carter and the excellently-named Randolph Mantooth and Robert Fuller of Emergency! turning up in an episode about brushfires.

Interestingly, the show was used as a 'test-bed' and every season included a pilot for a character who, if popular enough, might have got their own series (None did). They included 'Sister Michael Wants You' in series one, which starred Delta Burke as a crime-solving nun, and 'Retribution" in series five, a two-parter that featured Fred Dryer leading what would have been a new series called 'The Chief'. Other nested pilots included 'Whistlers', about two vice detectives, and one with Leah Remini as a lawyer.

Five cast members from the Star Trek franchise - Walter Koenig, Grace Lee Whitney, Wil Wheaton, George Takei and Majel Barett - appear in an episode about alien abduction called 'Alienated'. The episode also featured Bill Mumy of Lost in Space and Babylon 5.

Seven other Van Dykes appeared in the show. Most obviously, Dick's son Barry co-starred as Steve Sloan. Grandson Carey appears in a handful of episodes, as does his brother Shane. Barry's kids Wes and Taryn pop in, too, Jerry Van Dyke guests in an episode in series seven and Dick's daughter Stacy makes a rare appearance, as well.

Another fact tomorrow!

A Murder To Die For is in the shops on the 25th and available to pre-order online NOW from all sites where books are sold.

The sequel, The Diabolical Club, is currently funding and needs your help. Please consider backing it here.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Five, Four ... The Countdown continues!

Publication Day for A Murder To Die For is the 25th. Here's the second of five murder-mystery related trivia facts for the countdown. ..

Countdown Fact #4: Columbo's first name isn't Philip. It's probably Frank. 

Although Peter Falk never once revealed his character’s first name in the TV shows, the name ‘Frank Columbo’ can be seen on his police ID in several episodes, most clearly in the Season 1 episode ‘Dead Weight’ (1971).

In 1984 Columbo’s first name was the subject of a $300 million lawsuit.

A chap called Fred L Worth, from Sacramento, California, wrote a series of trivia books during the 70s and 80s. Concerned that he might have all of his facts stolen, he planted a ‘mountweazel’ – a lie by any other name - in his books so that, if someone copied from him, he would be able to prove that his work had been plagiarised. His 'alternative fact' was that Columbo’s first name is Phillip. Years later, the board game 'Trivial Pursuit' was released and included a game card which claimed that Columbo’s first name was Philip. The game made millions. An extremely chuffed Worth filed a lawsuit against the inventors of the game.

However, the case was thrown out even though the defendants admitted that they had copied from Worth’s book and from many others. It was, after all, a legitimate source for facts just like encyclopaedias or dictionaries. The judge agreed that Worth couldn't ‘own’ or copyright a fact and despite launching a series of appeals, he was defeated each time.

 The fallout from this story is that Worth's books are stil out there and, as the result, there are any number of websites and Twitter trivia bots that will tell you that Columbo's first name is Phillip.

Another fact tomorrow!

A Murder To Die For is in the shops on the 25th and avaialble to pre-order online NOW.

The sequel, The Diabolical Club, is now funding at Unbound. Have a look, make a pledge, help create a new book! Click here.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Countdown Begins ...

Publication Day for A Murder To Die For is the 25th.

That means it's countdown time!

Starting today, I'll post five murder-mystery related trivia facts. We start today with ...

Countdown Fact #5: Agatha Christie may been the first British woman to learn how to surf standing up. 

In January 1922, Agatha and husband Archie traveled to South Africa where they were introduced to prone surfboard riding on Muizenberg beach. She wrote at the time: "The surf boards in South Africa were made of light, thin wood, easy to carry, and one soon got the knack of coming in on the waves. It was occasionally painful as you took a nosedive down into the sand, but on the whole it was an easy sport and great fun."

But it was in Hawaii that the Christies learned how to surf standing up. Christie wrote in her autobiography: "I learned to become expert – or at any rate expert from the European point of view – the moment of complete triumph on the day that I kept my balance and came right into shore standing upright on my board!"

Pete Robinson, founder of the Devon-based Museum of British Surfing says that: "In the early 1920s very few British people were surfing and the only one we know about earlier than her, standing up, was Prince Edward."

Another fact tomorrow!

And, don't forget, you can pledge on the sequel, The Diabolical Club now by clicking here!

Friday, 12 January 2018

...and then two come along at once

With two weeks to go until the general release of A Murder To Die For in the shops, I've been hard at work getting the campaign together to launch my funding attempt for the sequel.

And today, The Diabolical Club went live! Here's the link. And here's the promotional video.

If you fancy getting involved in making the sequel a reality, then click on the link and pledge!

Friday, 5 January 2018

First Reviews of 2018

It's been a week of lovely reviews for the book with people saying nice things on Facebook and Twitter and leaving reviews on Goodreads. Here's a sample:

'What’s great about this is that it gets the balance just right, making me laugh as a reader whilst simultaneously delivering a plot that kept me gripped until the end. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to both die-hard murder mystery fans and to people who only ever read “funny” books.'

'What Stevyn has created here is the stuff of future Christmas TV legend, the kind of story which, as I read it, I could imagine sat in front of the fire, sherry in hand, laughing my merry Christmas arse off at.'

It is rare that I find a book that makes me laugh out loud, usually it may happen once per very good book. With 'A Murder to Die For' it happened on more occasions than my aging memory can recall.'

'The jokes come thick and fast, from the outrageous to the sly.'

‘I devoured A Murder To Die For in 24 hours and what a great read it was! I can’t wait for a sequel.’

'I finished it tonight on my iPad and I freely confess that I laughed so much in places that I wet myself. There! I’ve confessed it! But tell me, were you eyeing possible TV dramatisation you scoundrel? It would certainly transfer very well. One of those one-off specials for the Easter or Whitsun weekend schedule on BBC Two, maybe.'

Wow. And the book isn't even on general release until the 25th!

I had my first video review from a pro book-blogger too in the form of SocialBookshelves who posted this written review too.

And SHOTS, the UK's premier e-zine for crime fiction and thriller fans, had good things to say as well. You can read Mike Ripley's review here.

It all bodes well for the 25th!

If you haven't got your copy pre-ordered yet ... what are you waiting for? Click the link on the right of this page or here.