Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Opening A Prison Library

I just received a copy of the prison magazine for HMP Gartree - I opened their new library last year - and there's a nice article about me. I do a fair number of prison visits, ever since I wrote Hard Landing, the first Spider Shepherd book where he goes undercover in a high security prison. A large part of the success of that book was because I was allowed the run of Belmarsh Prison in South London for research purposes. I was greatly helped by one of the governors there, Ian West, and he's now based at Gartree. He asked me to open the library and I was more than happy to. They had a good group of guys in to hear me talk, and as always with a prison visit the question and answer session was quite vigorous!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Live Fire Review

Had a great review in the Bangkok Post this week, courtesy of Bernard Trink, who is a living legend in Thailand. (You can click on it to make it larger and readable!) He used to have column in the Post long before the Internet started and was for years pretty much the only source of information about what was going on in the bars. These days he reviews books and movies for the paper. The great thing about Bernard is that he reads the books from cover to cover, and always has something interesting to say. Obviously my books get reviewed a lot and sad to say in some cases it's clear that the 'reviewer' hasn't done much more than read the dustjacket copy!

I'm head down on the new Spider Shepherd book, though I still don't really have a title for it. Big Boys is the best I can do but everyone says that sounds too much like a gay porn movie. I've just passed 45,000 words. I had hoped to finish it be the end of May but now June is looking more likely. I'm aiming for 120,000 words, but past experience suggests that it will come in at 135,000.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy St George's Day!

Happy St George's Day! I'm English and proud of it. Our Government seems determined to wipe out the English at the expense of being "British" which is why St George's Day is rarely celebrated these days. I think we should fly our flag more, and take pride in our country and its people. I stopped saying I was British some years ago and now I always say that I'm English, from England. I've no doubt that before long I'll be committing a criminal offence by doing so! Such is life....

I did see the following on Yahoo which cheered me up a bit...

Civic and church leaders have joined calls for greater emphasis to be placed on St George's Day.

An apparent reluctance to display too much patriotism and the perceived difficulties of aligning national pride with the concept of a "United Kingdom" have pushed the patron saint of England's day onto the sidelines.

Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu has suggested a public holiday marking the day could help promote unity.

He said: "I believe that the feast of St George, the patron saint of England, is a day that we should celebrate.

"It's important that young people in this country rejoice in the land that they live in and have a sense of national pride and identity.

"It is time to recognise collectively the enormous treasure that sits in our cultural and spiritual vaults."

His comments came after the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, called for Church of England clergy to hold dedicated services to celebrate the "glorious heritage" of St George.

Creating a new public holiday would turn the occasion around from an event that has lost relevance, according to a survey of 7,000 users of social website MySpace.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said St George's Day had been "ignored" for too long and has organised a series of free events in the capital as well as ordering the English flag to be flown outside City Hall.

Though I did have to smile at the surnames of the two religious figures calling for a greater recognition for St George - Mr Sentamu and Mr Nazir-Ali. Be nice if we could hear the same enthusiasm from the Smiths, Joneses, Browns, and yes, even the Darlings of this great country of ours. Oh, I forget, the top Brown is Scots.... hmmmmmm

Meanwhile, the petty officials who now run our lives in the UK continue to demponstrate how small-minded and mean-spirited they can be....

A woman who removed her elderly mother from a care home amid worries over her health was shocked to see police and social workers on her doorstep with a battering ram ready to snatch her back.

Rosalind Figg was concerned about the treatment her elderly mother was receiving and took her home to look after her personally.

But social workers in Coventry disagreed with her actions and used a little-known power to take her back.

They obtained an emergency warrant from magistrates under the Mental Health Act on the grounds that a "person believed to be suffering from a mental disorder is being ill treated and neglected".

Two days later they turned up at Mrs Figg's Keresley home with police in tow as back up.

Mrs Figg was forced to hand over her distraught 86-year-old mother Betty who was wheeled to a car with a blanket over her head and returned to Butts Croft House.

A police spokesman said: "Police were asked to assist social services to remove an elderly woman to a place of safety.

"A warrant was granted and an enforcer was taken in order to gain access to the property if needed. The enforcer was not used."

Monday, April 20, 2009

Advice To Unpublished Writers

I got an email today from a chap who is trying to get noticed by the big publishing houses. A company produced his first book but is doing it by POD -publishing on demand - which means that they only print copies once they are sold. It's very hard to sell in decent quantities with POD. The chap wants to get noticed by the mainstream publishers and wanted to know who he should send his second book to. He complimented me on my first book, which was nice. Anyway, I thought others might be interested in my reply, so here it is -

Yeah, I was lucky with Pay Off. It's a very short book and the plot is full of holes and I doubt that it would be published today. The Fireman was better, but still wouldn't be publishable in today's market, I think. It wasn't until my third book, Hungry Ghost, that I wrote a book which deserved to be published. Writers are very, very lucky if they sell their first book.

The market is much harder now than it was twenty years ago. Part of that is because there are so many more novels being written. When I started writing I had to work by hand or on an old typewriter (manual first, then electric) and if I made a mistake the whole page had to be retyped. These days computers and printers and Spellcheck take all the drudgery out of writing so more people are doing it. As a result, it's much much harder to get noticed. And publishers are much more demanding regarding sales these days. The first print run for Pay Off was 1,000 copies in hardback and about 10,000 copies in paperback. These days publishers really aren't interested in a book unless they think theycan sell 40,000 in paperback. They no longer have the patience to take on a writer and build him gradually, they want to hit the ground running!

Pretty much all UK publishers (and definitely all the US ones) have stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts. They were simply getting too many and virtually all were unpublishable. Now all submissions have to go through agents, pretty much, so your first port of call is to get an agent.

You'll have to get a copy of the Writers and Artists Yearbook, or the Writer's Handbook, and write to every agent in it. Without an agent representing you it's going to be very difficult to get anyone to read your work.

I'm assuming that you did send your first book out to agents and publishers, and that they weren't receptive. You have to learn from that and make your subsequent books better. You have to be able to look dispassionately at what you've written and work out how to improve it.

It's not a question of finding a publishing company that appreciates your style of writing , it's about you producing a book that people want to read and, more importantly, that they want to buy.

There are a lot of companies around that will produce a book for you, but just because they will print the book doesn't mean it will get into the shops. And just because the book is in print, doesn't mean people will buy it. You have to produce a book that people want to read. How do you do that? You produce an interesting story with strong characters and you tell it in an interesting way. And that isn't easy. And the skills necessary to produce a publishable book take time to acquire. It's a craft, not a gift, it's something that has to be worked at. I hit my stride with my third book, but many other writers take much longer. The key to improving is to be critical of your own work and to strive to improve it.

Writing a book is like running a marathon. Anyone who finishes a marathon deserves credit for that. It takes time and effort and strength of will. But not everyone who finishes a marathon puts in a great performance. Some just walk it. And not everyone who finishes a marathon has what it takes to be a professional runner.

I know how much effort it takes to produce a novel, even with today's computers and software. Anyone who finishes a novel deserves a pat on the back. It's something to be proud of, it's something that not everybody can do. But just because a novel has been written doesn't mean that other people will necessarily take pleasure in reading it. And, more importantly, just because a novel has been written doesn't necessarily mean that people will buy it! That takes skill, and it takes talent. And it takes practice.

There are times when I find writing difficult, even now, but the thing to remember is that anything worth having has to be worked for. Except the lottery of course....

Good luck with your writing, and best wishes,


The Laziest Con Artist

Just received my shortest ever letter offering me free cash - How lazy is this guy?

Hello my friend,

I am Mr. Adams St.Michael.I work for NNPC-Nigeria. We Have an over-invoiced $28.6M to be transfered to your account in your country.SHARES,30% for you the acct owner and 70% for us.NOTE:Civil servants do not operative foreign acount hence this contact.We ve perfected arrangement & no risk involved.We ll come for our shares once transfer is successfully made to your acct.
Yours Sincerely,
Adams St.Michaels
Tel:234 706 121 6502

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Amoo The Merrier

Oh Yes, someone else wants to give me a lot of money!!! Lucky, lucky me!!!

From: Mr. Douglas Amoo.
Plot No.7-Flat 4 Kweku Innocent Crescent,
Labadi district
Accra - Ghana.

(RE: TRANSFER OF ($ 42,000.000.00 USD}

We want to transfer to overseas ($ 42,000.000.00 USD) from a prime bank here in Ghana, I want to ask you to quietly look for a reliable and honest person who will be capable and fit to provide either an existing bank account or to set up a new Bank a/c immediately to receive this money, even an empty a/c can serve to receive this money, as long as you will remain honest to me till the end of this important business trusting in you and believing in God that you will never let me down either now or in future.

I am Mr.Douglas Amoo, Director of International Relation with a bank here in Ghana,during the course of our auditing I discovered a floating fund in an account opened in the bank in 2001 and since 2002 nobody has operated on this account again, after going through some old files in the records I discovered that the owner of the account died without a [heir] hence the money is floating and if I do not remit this money out urgently it will be forfeited for nothing.
The owner of this account is Mr.Louis Kennedy , a foreigner, and a sailor, and he died since 2002. and no other person knows about this account or any thing concerning it, the account has no other beneficiary and my investigation proved to me as well that Late Mr.Louis Kennedy was the manager of K.Louis.(Gh). LTD.

We will start the first transfer with Twelve Million USD [$12,000.000.00] upon successful transaction without any disappoint from your side, we shall re-apply for the payment of the remaining amount to your account,The amount involved is (USD 42M) I want to first transfer $12,000.000 [Twelve Million million United States Dollar from this money into a safe foreigners account abroad before the rest, but I don't know any foreigner in my life, I am only contacting you as a foreigner because this money can not be approved to a local person here, without valid international foreign passport, but can only be approved to any foreigner with valid international passport or drivers license and foreign a/c because the money is in US dollars and the former owner of the a/c Mr.Louis Kennedy was a foreigner too, [and the money can only be approved into a foreign a/c.

Arrange your A/c and send it to me as follows for the processing of the payment:
1]A/C NUMBER:...............
2]A/C NAME:...................
3]BANK NAME:.................
4]BANK ADDRESS:..............
5]SWIFT CODE:..................

I got your contact address from my secretary who operates computer and I am revealing this to you with believe in God that you will never let me down in this business, you are the first and the only person that I am contacting for this business,so please reply urgently so that I will inform you the next step to take.Send also your private telephone and fax number including the full details of the account to be used for the deposit as started above.

I need your full co-operation to make this work fine.because the management is ready to approve this payment to any foreigner who has correct information of this account, which I will give to you, upon your positive response and once I am convinced that you are capable and will meet up with instruction of a key bank official who is helping us in this business.

I need your strong assurance that you will never let me down,With the influence and the position of the key bank official we can transfer this money to any foreigner's reliable account which you can provide with assurance that this money will be intact pending our physical arrival in your country for sharing. The bank official will destroy all documents of transaction immediately we receive this money leaving to no trace to any place and to build confidence, you can come immediately to discuss with me face to face after which I will make this remittance in your presence and three of us will fly to your country at least two days ahead of the money going into the account.

I will apply for annual leave to get visa immediately I hear from you that you are ready to act and receive this fund in your account.I will apply for the legal approvals for onward transfer of this money to your account with appropriate clearance from the relevant ministries and Foreign Exchange Departments. At the conclusion of this business, you will be given 30% of the total amount, 60% will be for me,5% will be for expenses both parties might have incurred during the process of transferring and 5% will be for orphanage homes.

I look forward to hear from you as soon as possible if you are interested.

Yours Sincerely,
Mr. Douglas Amoo.

And I got this!

The United Nations & World Bank Group,

African Union Authority & USA Government.

World Grant Allocation Scheme.

The United Nations, World Bank Group, African Union Authority & USA

Government’s World Grant Allocation Scheme of $ 25 million.

The United Nations & World Bank Group in collaboration with African Union Authority & USA Government has endorsed grant allocation to individuals and non-governmental organisations to the maximum sum of USD25,000,000 (twenty-five million dollars) in other to checkmate global recession and economic turmoil across the world. Grants are allocated for educational purposes, health, business, the environment, scientific researches and much more.

The United Nations’ World Grant Scheme remits approved funds to applicant(s) through the approved financial institution within a limited time frame. World Bank’s grant release Code: WBG 225/2009 for allocation and remittance of grant to interested applicant(s). United Nations Grant Code: UN5685NY, White House Fund Approved Code: WH44CV, African Union reference Code: AU354601.

Applicant(s) are oblige to send personal information enumerated below to the international grant remittance coordinator.

1) Full Name

2) Address : City, State, and Country
3) Phone or Fax number
4) Company’s Name (if any), Position and Address
5) Profession, Age and Marital Status
6) Copy of an identity card, International Passport/Driver’s License:

For more information, contact the International Grant Remittance coordinator (IGRC), Mr. Henry Brookslaw : email:

Dr. Elaine Henry
World Grant Scheme Secretary.

Under the United Nations.

The New Doctor Who

I thought I might put myself forward as the new Doctor Who. Just a thought...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Live Fire Paperback Cover

I've just received the cover of the mass market edition of Live Fire from Hodder and Stoughton. I think it looks great! The book will be on the shelves sometime in September.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Thai New Year

It's New Year in Thailand, Songkran, when it's traditional to get drunk and throw water over strangers. Here's the view from my study, where I'm hard at work on the new book!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Story Ideas

Readers often ask where I get my ideas from. The answer is simple - for the Spider Shepherd series, all I have to do is to monitor the news. When I started the current book, I decided to write about police vigilantes, which admittedly is from my imagination (though based on a few chats I've had with cynical serving officers!).

But now the Real IRA is rearing its ugly head. See the following:

The Real IRA has said it will attack British forces "wherever and whenever" they decide.

The statement comes just a day after the group told Ireland's Sunday Tribune it would carry out attacks in mainland Britain.

It told the paper it would attack Britain "when it becomes more opportune".

The Real IRA Army council member said to the paper: "We're looking for high-profile targets, though we'll obviously take advantage when other targets present themselves."

At a rally in Londonderry the spokesman also admitted the group was responsible for the murder of former British spy Denis Donaldson.

He said: "Denis Donaldson was a traitor and the leadership of the Provisional movement, under guidance from the British Government, had made provisions for Donaldson to escape republican justice.

"No traitor will escape justice regardless of time, rank, or past actions. The republican movement has a long memory."

Donaldson was murdered at a remote cottage in Ireland three years ago. Until now, nobody knew who killed him or why they did it.

The spokesman also threatened Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuiness who has labelled the group "traitors".

The Real IRA spokesman said: "Let us remind our former comrade of the nature and actions of a traitor. Treachery is collaborating with the enemy, treachery is betraying your country. Let us give our one-time comrade an example."

Former IRA member Sean O Callaghan told Sky News: "It would be silly to exaggerate their support.

"At the same time what you have is a group of people who are very, very determined to kill soldiers, to kill policemen, to plant bombs and to disrupt North Ireland. But I suspect their support is within the hundreds not the thousands.

"The IRA and Sinn Fein can't, as in days gone by, go out to intimidate these people. They're caught and the dissidents are aware of this so they have become bolder.

"Until we have a united Ireland we have to accept that there will be people calling themselves Irish republicans who will kill soldiers to make it happen."

I love the fact that the REal IRA is now threatening Martin McGuinness. You couldn't make that up! Is that a book or what? IRA assassins on the trail of a former IRA member turned politican. Who does he turn to for help? Step forward Spider Shepherd!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Thailand Scare Stories

This just in from Yahoo news....lifted, I think, from ITN...

Britons have been warned against travelling to Bangkok after violence broke out in the Thai capital.

The government has declared a state of emergency and ordered soldiers and armoured vehicles on to the streets.

But red-shirted anti-government protesters went unchecked, with angry mobs roaming parts of the capital and commandeering buses to barricade roads.

Protesters attacked a car thought to be carrying Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as he fled the interior ministry after making the emergency decree.

The state of emergency came a day after demonstrators forced the cancellation of a 16-nation Asian summit, with leaders being evacuated by helicopter.

The Foreign Office urged anyone considering a trip to the capital or its surrounding areas to "urgently review their plans".

British ambassador to Thailand Quinton Quayle said: "As the situation is so volatile we are advising British travellers thinking of coming to Bangkok to urgently review their travel plans.

"British residents and visitors to Bangkok are advised to avoid any areas where demonstrations are taking place and to stay indoors as far as possible."

Demonstrators say the prime minister's four-month-old government took power illegitimately. They believe the military, judiciary and other unelected officials are undermining democracy by interfering in politics.

Where am I right now? Bangkok. Have I seen any trouble, tanks or troops? Nope. Am I following the Ambassador's advice and staying home? No I am not. Went out all day with my daughter and didn't have a glimpse of trouble. Had lunch at the Landmark Hotel, went to see a movie at Major Ekkermai (Monsters Versus Aliens in 3D - brilliant!) and went shopping. Then went out at night and got back at 2am and all was well. Thailand is always volatile, that's part of the charm of the place. Don't believe the scare stories!

My Lucky Day Again

It was my lucky day again today - somebody else wants to give me money!

#32-477 hatshire Ext 5Croyodon
United Kingdom

ATTN: Sir/ Madam,

I will like to start by introducing myself as Mr Hafeez Karim,Head of the Internal Audit Department of HSBC Bank UK.

I am soliciting a very confidential business proposal,which involves the transfer of the amount of £ 35.5 Million GBP into your personal bank account in your country for investment purposes.

These funds originally belongs a Client of Mine by name Mr Hafiz Muhammad Zubair Naseem,a citizen of Pakistan and a former Credit Suisse investment banker convicted in a multimillion-dollar insider trading plot.

Mr Hafiz Muhammad Zubair Naseem is currently being sentenced in a U.S Court and shall spend a minimum of 10 years in Jail.

Please view this webpage for refrence:

My client has asked me to help him transfer his funds which are currently in an account here in HSBC Bank UK,into a foreign account with obsolete secretcy.
Please note that this funds shall be used for investment purposes on behalf of My Client and the funds shall be transferred in your name.

After successful transfer of the funds into your bank account in your country,My Client's wife and family shall come over to your country to meet with you personally,for appropriate sharing and investment of the remaining funds into your bank account in your country.

Our offer is 30% for you and 60% for my clients family,and 10% for covering any expenses incured during the process of transferring the funds into your bank account in your country.

Please note that this 10% for repaying expenses,will only be accessible when the funds reflect in your bank account in your country.

If you are willing to assist in the success of this transaction,please send the following details:


Your banking details shall be requested from you as soon as contact is established between us.

I await your response.
Hafeez Karim

Sadly I am too busy to reply! I am behind with the new Spider Shepherd book - just about to hit 40,000 words so I am going to have to work faster and harder if I'm to deliver it by the end of May. The plot is working well - the Real IRA and Continuity IRA both got busy earlier this year so I have woven that into the story I'm doing which makes it all the more topical. There isn't much happening on the terrorism front in the UK (thank goodness!) so I don't thinbk I'll have an Islamic terrorism thread in this book. That could change though!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Simon's New Shoes

My friend Simon has just bought a new pair of shoes and I feel I have to share them with the world. He tells me that women love them...

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Me Paramotoring

I found this video of me paramotoring in Florida. I'm still not sure why I did it!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009


I caught a computer virus this week, a bad one. Luckily I make frequent back-ups so I didn't lose too much work but the whole experience left me very annoyed and frustrated.

I'm annoyed at the moron who spent his time designing a virus for no other reason than to screw up people's lives. One does try to believe in the inherent goodness of man, but computer viruses can only come from the mind of someone who doesn't like people, someone who gets a kick out of working against society. To be honest I don't think there's much of a difference, mentality-wise, between the nerd who spends weeks designing a malevolent computer virus, and the fanatic who plans to blow up a plane or a shopping mall. Both are only interested in destruction and unhappiness.

And I'm annoyed at Norton. Last year I paid almost US$60 for a years subscription to Norton 360, and it was updated and running when I got the virus. It was an absolute waste of money. For years I have always used pirated anti-virus software (usually Norton, bought at Bangkok's infamous Pantip Plaza for US$3). It's the last time I'll be paying for a copy of Norton, of that I'm sure! The first thing that the virus did was to disable Norton 360, and to block my access to the internet. What kind of anti-virus software allows itself to be disabled by a virus?

But I think what I'm most annoyed it is Microsoft. I think that in years to come the world will realise what a great con job Bill Gates and his mates pulled in getting their operating system designated as the world's standard.

I've never liked Windows. When I bought my first lap top twenty years ago I disabled Windows and worked out of DOS, the Disc Operating System. It's years since you've been able to do that. The new Windows, Vista, is constantly asking me to do things that I don't want to do, and when I do tell it what to do, nine times out of ten it asks me if I'm sure, as if Microsoft always knows best.

I like Sony laptops and I pretty much buy a new one every year. But every time I do I am forced to buy another copy of Windows. I've got Vista on the latest, and it's rubbish. Ninety per cent of what comes with Vista is of absolutely no use to me. I was okay with Windows 98, pretty much, and everything else has been downhill from there. I hate Vista, I hated XP, yet because I like to work on Sony laptops, I am forced to buy a copy of the latest version of Windows. Sony will not sell you a machine with Linux or any operating system other than Windows. And if you remove Windows and replace it with Linux, they will no longer guarantee the machine.

That was the big con that Bill Gates perpetrated on the world. Each computer manufacturer should have come up with their own operating system, based around a central standard, then consumers would have had a choice. Gates sold the industry a monopoly. We have no choice.

And the thing is, Windows is crap, and Microsoft knows it's crap which is why they keep sending out patches and updates. They have built a crap product which is full of security weaknesses that these viruses are constantly exploiting. If Microsoft had done its job properly in the first place, there'd be no way for external viruses and worms to gain access to it. So given that it's weaknesses in the Windows program itself that leads to the viruses, why should I be forced to pay for an anti-virus program? Microsoft should be supplying them free. When you buy a car, bumpers and brakes aren't sold as optional extras, they're a vital part of the car. And a decent anti-virus program should be an essential part of Windows. Ditto Word. I always use pirated copies of Word because I don't see why I should pay extra to have something that seems to me to be essential for any computer users. Word, and Microsoft Office, should be part of Windows, end of story.

Anyway, enough ranting about Microsoft. I bought another computer this week, a mini-Sony, as a back-up in case I get hit by a virus again. It really is tiny but they keyboard is quite usable. The screen is small and the desktop logos are quite hard to see, but it's fine to work on for short periods. It's great for browsing the intenet and the battery life is over two hours. It cost about £600, which I guess is reasonable. Though, of course, Bill Bloody Gates took his cut. Yes, I now have another copy of Windows and the first thing the computer did when I switched it on was download a whole raft of patches and updates.... It never ends.