Sunday, February 15, 2009


Nick Brownlee’s publishers have just got in touch with me about providing a quote for the covers of his books. I met Nick on the Simon Mayo show where we were talking about Live Fire, and Nick’s first novel, Bait. Bait is set in Kenya and is a cracking thriller. His second novel, Burn, will be out in the summer. I said on the show that Nick’s writing was ‘Alexander McCall Smith with teeth’ and Nick’s editor is keen to use that, but wanted to know if I had any other useable quotes. I said I’d put my thinking cap on!

My own editor was also very keen about one of the comments made about Live Fire on the Simon Mayo Show. My hero Spider Shepherd was described as ‘Jeremy Clarkson with a gun’ which is a striking quote and there’s every chance that it will be used on the paperback.

Getting a good quote from a well-known author is a good way of boosting sales at the start of a writer’s career. My first book, Pay Off, was published by Collins and they wrote to Jack Higgins to ask him if he’d give us a quote. He sent it straight back with a note saying that he was too busy to read it. I thought that we should use that as the quote on the cover - “I was too busy to read it – Jack Higgins” but Collins didn’t think that was a good idea.

A few years later, when Hodder and Stoughton were publishing The Chinaman, they asked Jack for a quote and this time he graciously gave us one which we used for many years and which I’m sure helped sell the book.

A few years ago I was approached by Kate Lyall-Grant to give a cover quote for an American writer, Vince Flynn. Kate edited my book The Stretch before she went to work for Simon and Schuster in their London office. Kate was trying to break Vince into the UK and thought a quote from me might help. Vince writes great action thrillers and I was more than happy to give her a quote. ‘Vince Flynn is Tom Clancy on speed’. It’s only seven words long but it’s a great quote, so great in fact that they have used it on his last three UK editions. The latest, Extreme Measures, was published last month, and there’s my quote on the front.

It’s funny but I actually get more of a kick seeing my name on the front of Vince’s books than seeing my own books!

Nick Brownlee already has a quote on the front of his book, Bait. It’s from crime writer Mark Billingham and it says ‘Bait will have you hooked’ which is quite clever. Now his editor wants a quote that has more to do with his writing style than any particular book. That way it can obviously be used on several titles.

Here’s a few thoughts I’ve had about quotes for Nick:

‘Nick Brownlee writes tough, uncompromising thrillers’

‘Torture, murder and an explosion – and that’s just the first chapter’

‘Dialogue that cuts like a machete’

‘Sun, sea sand – and murder most foul. A cracking thriller in an exotic setting’

‘More twists and turns than a boa constrictor’


Nick Brownlee said...

Hi Steve - just read your piece about author comments. Jaysus, the things they make you do! Needless to say it's great to have your name attached to my book, so thanks very much for taking the time to come up with so many imaginative quotes.

Sometimes I wonder if other authors are quite as diligent. I particularly enjoy reading Stephen King's endorsements, which normally run something like: "It's a chiller as cold as a zombie's kiss - and you'll keep the goddamn light on till midsummer..."

The book he's writing about is invariably pants, which makes me think that Mr King just enjoys dreaming up wacky straplines in between bashing out bestsellers.

However I recently read an interview with Dennis Lehane who said that a favourable King comment in a newspaper article put about 20,000 sales on his novel and turned him into an A-list writer - so what do I know?

Keep up the good work. As I don't have either yours or Stephen King's cachet, I've done the next best thing and told all my mates to go out and buy a copy of Live Fire - best book I've read in ages.


Stephen Leather said...

Cheers, Nick!

'Best book I've read in ages' - Nick Brownlee. I might use that!

I look forward to your next one!