Sunday, March 15, 2009


I received the folowing email this week from a reader who'd just finished Live Fire -

Dear Stephen,Just read "live fire'.....great book,well written(even my missus likes it),but,as an ex -naval armourer your small arms expertise is lacking.............Christ! a safety catch on a revolver(dont have them).............repetetive blank shots from a semi-auto pistol(cant be done), it didnt lose the credibility of the plot,let it go,but please,as you a thriller writer suggest a copy of"Small arms of the World" may help you..........keep writing...................luv ya.........Kev

I always like emails pointing out mistakes, rather than typos. Typos generally aren't my fault, it's the fault of the typesetting company that my publisher uses, but genuine mistakes are always a learning experience!

I have to hold up my hand to the mistake about the safety on the revolver, and I'm not sure how that got into the book. Very few revolvers have safety catches, and the ones that do are so rare that there would have to be a very good reason for having them in a book. Safety catches aren't necessary because the hammer has to be cocked before firing, which is itself a safety precaution.

I think what probably happened is that I originally had 'gun' in the copy but for some reason changed it during a rewrite to be more specific, without realising that the safety catch description was there. And it's not the sort of thing that an editor would catch, unless he or she was a gun nut!

What is funny is that I do have a copy of Small Arms Of The World next to my desk, and I often use it!

Now Kev's other point, about a semi-automatic not being able to fire a succession of blanks, I'm not so sure about. I have a replica Glock which fires blanks and the last time I fired it I'm pretty sure that the casing was ejected and a fresh one slotted into the breech and it was ready for firing again. The thing is, it made such a loud noise (surprise!) that I didn't want to fire it again, seeing as how I was in my flat at the time and the neighbours were in! But I'm happy to be corrected, so if anyone thinks Kev is right and I'm wrong, do let me know!

I have made mistakes with guns before, including saying that a Glock has a safety catch, which it doesn't. Instead the Glock has a split trigger which is supposed to prevent accidental firing. That's actually a common mistake for thriller writers to make. But probably the worst gun mistake you can make is to have a revolver with a silencer (or supressor). Silencers don't work on revolvers!

I actually don't mind having mistakes pointed out to me - my books are all reprinted regularly so mistakes can always be corrected. The revolver will be replaced by 'handgun' in the mass market edition of Live Fire which is due out later this year.

Mistakes that I hate to see in books are 'Drug Enforcement Agency' when it should be 'Drug Enforcement Administration' and 'Serious And Organised Crime Agency' when it should be 'Serious Organised Crime Agency'.

The new Spider Shepherd book is going well - just hit 17,000 words. I'm thinking of calling it Big Boys but that does sound a bit like a porn movie. I quite like Old Wounds. I don't have to decide for a few months so theres no hurry!

At the moment I'm planning the perfect murder... it's quite fun. My good friend Anthony Horowitz, the childrens writer, says that crime writers would make the best killers. He should know, I don't think anyone has killed off more people on TV than Anthony (Poirot, Murder In Mind, Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War). Shepherd won't actually do the killing but he will help, and it'll involve a struggle with his conscience.... It'll mean taking him to a point where he has never been before. He's killed in the past, to save lives or because he was under attack, but this latest killing is something much more personal....


Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen.

I have just finished reading 'Live Fire'. I just wanted to sat how FANTASTIC it was. I could not put it down and it took me just over a day to read it. I have read all your Dan 'Spider' Shepherd books and I LOVE them! I cannot wait for the next installment! Keep up the good work!!

des said...

Hi Stephen, with regards to people wanting to send you money. These are scammers, all they are trying to do is to gain information about your account with the intention of emptying it for you. I have received many such e-mails, my advice is just ignore them.
On a different note,I have a friend who served with the special services of The Royal Marines and did some very good work. But whilst still serving in the marines got involved with a big drug gang and was eventually arrested. After a long spell on remand and bail the case fell apart and he was released. In later years he teamed up with Big Daddy as his tag partner and was known as the Fighting Marine. He now runs a Tattoo shop in Plymouth. He has a very intriguing story to tell. As he is not a writer he wondered if you would be interested in taking on the task of putting his experiences into words. Keep up the good work.
Regards Des.

Stephen Leather said...

Hi Des -

Yeah, they are scams. I don't know why but recently I've been getting more than ever.

Re your friend in Plymouth (where I spent six months when I was in my twenties being trained as a journalist!). I'm working flat out trying to produce two books a year at the moment. Your friend should try writing down his experiences himself for a start, even though he's not a writer. Or he could visit his local bookstore and find books where ghost-writers have been used. If he can find a ghost-writer who had written a similar story to the one that he has to tell, he could contact him. I've just read a book called The Devil, about a Liverpool drug dealer, which was ghost-written by a journalist called Graham Johnson, and it was brilliant!