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),........as 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....