Archive for the ‘Novels’ Category

My novel ‘By The Sword’ has been accepted for publication! The publisher will be Wild Wolf Publishing, who specialise in dark and edgy fiction. I have already published ‘Storm Coming Down’ in their ‘Holiday of the Dead’ anthology. This is great news and really exciting but there is one lesson that comes out of the experience for writers: finishing the novel is when the hard work really begins. I suspect there is a second lesson: getting a publishing contract is when the really hard work really begins. The book must be marketed and promoted, brought out into the public domain so that people know about it and can decide whether to buy it or not (hopefully the former!)

Anyway, enough of the technicah stuff. Here is my attempt at the blurb:

A macabre discovery in a city cemetery…

A political scandal engulfing the city…

A samurai-obsessed swordsman on the rampage…

 The severed body parts point to one man: gangland killer ‘Banzai Billy’ Boyle.

 What lies at the root of his obsession with the bushido culture of Japan? How is he linked to sleazy politician  and prospective MP ‘Big Jim’ McConnarty? Are the walls of Barlinnie Prison secure enough to contain him? Can police crime analyst Grace Andrew track him down before she becomes the next victim?

 This conspiracy unravels in horrific detail as it twists and turns from the grimy backstreets of Glasgow to the cherry-blossom groves of Japan, where it reaches a terrifying and gut-wrenching conclusion.



Posted: September 5, 2011 in Novels

“Contemplation on the nine stages of a decaying corpse”

Over two hundred years ago, in Shogunate Japan, a daimyo’s journey to Edo is halted by a slow-moving monk. With a flash of anger, a blade removes the man’s head. To the shock of the daimyo and his samurai, the monk picks up his head and walks onwards.

In modern Tokyo, Detective Hanaka Shimizu is called to a crime-scene in Ueno Park.  She finds that a corpse has been discovered, a woman, wrapped in a kimono with one breast exposed. The woman is unknown, possibly a prostitute, and languishes in the morgue while Shimizu makes inquiries.

Back in Edo, the daimyo is obsessed with the power of the resurrected  monk, and orders him to his mansion.  The monk Obuku explains the spiritual power of the Kusokan, contemplation of the stages of decay, illustrated with macabre detail in the Kusozu series of silk-paintings, printed by the talented and illegitimate son of mirror-maker Nakajima. The daimyo orders the killing and assembly of corpses, to match the nine silk-paintings.

And, in modern-day Tokyo, there is another killing, another corpse. This time, the body is bloated, on the cusp of putrefaction….

What dark secret will Shimizu discover, reaching back over two hundred and fifty years? Who is the figure in white following her? What will happen when the nine corpses are finally assembled? Can she discover the secret and stop it?

By The Sword #5

Posted: August 18, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

It’s done. Finished. 80,000 words. Thanks to Glasgow Writers Group for ongoing feedback, which has really helped shape the story.

The manuscript is with publishers for now, and has even crept off a couple of slush piles, so who knows … it might be in the bookshops one day!

By The Sword #4

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

Despite developing Billy’s own visit to Japan, and his backstory, the last few chapters still lacked something. They were certainly intriguing (I thought anyway!) but not really punchy or gripping. So I decided to put Grace in more danger, pursued by the shady followers of the nationalistic secret society and cult that was sheltering Billy.

By the time this was over, she resembled the cartoon character Penelope Pittstopp, with a Japanese Anthill Mob running to her rescue. This was really enjoyable and turned a lacklustre sandwich chapter into (what I hope will be) a white knuckle chase.

This takes the story nearly to the end. It is currently at 53,000 words. The final two chapters will probably add another 8,000 words, and will be the most enjoyable part of the novel…the final encounter, and the tying up of loose ends which seems to unravel!

Then, it’s back to the start. I have the books ‘McGraw’ and ‘Murder Capital’ by Reg McKay, which provide some background into gangland Glasgow. The unfolding investigation is complete in terms of police procedure and plot, but is perhaps a bit colourless. For anyone unfamiliar with Reg Mckay’s style of writing, it is about as far from colourless as you can get!

Today is February 28 2011. By 31 March 2011, I hope to have a complete first draft to take on holiday for a detailed edit, somewhere between 65,000 and 70,000 words. I’ve been kidding myself all along that my works-in-progress have been near-to-final drafts. It made me feel better at the time!

By The Sword #3

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

The novel, at this stage, was somewhere around 20,000 words. About two-thirds of the story was down in paper, or so I thought. This would make for a very short book. I reassured myself by thinking it would need a number of rewrites, and this was not even a first draft. That worked.

As mentioned, Billy has fled to Japan by this stage (around Chapter Eight). He is pursued by crime analyst Grace Andrew, to liaise with the Japanese police. This was easy to dive into at first. I visited Japan twice, and my wife had been out there for a year, so it was relatively familiar ground. The only trouble was the way the story turned into a bit of a passive travel log….Grace does this, sees that, as if it is somehow inevitable. Also, it was lacking some depth. Still, I cracked the 30,000 words mark, and got to what was effectively the end of the book. But the last third was a bit of a passenger-seat journey and not really nailbiting stuff, other than the end.

Once again, a book came to the rescue. Samurai: The Last Warrior, by John Man. This is an entertaining factual account of the samurai culture, in particular the period around the Meiji Restoration, based on the famous (in Japan) Saigo Takemori. More people should read about this samurai…his story is fascinating. It sparked off some other ideas about Banzai Billy’s philosophy, his influences and backstory. I weaved this in to the last few chapters, ping-ponging between Billy and his pursuers. This helped enormously, and the story leaped to some 43,000 words. There it sat for a while.

By The Sword #2

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

The front end was quite easy. There is a lot of stuff out there in terms of police procedure, and I had a few tips as well (you know who you are!) I needed to walk around the Southern Necropolis in Glasgow, to get a feel for where the first body would end up. It was straightforward enough (with welcome feedback on the way) until I got to Barlinnie, or rather until Billy got to Barlinnie. Then I became unstuck for a while.

A book came to the rescue. The Barlinnie Story by Robert Jeffrey. This was a fascinating non-fiction history of the infamous prison, and provided me with enough material and confidence to imagine it. Billy’s incarceration spans two chapters and ends messily and deliberately. There are only so many ways to effect an escape, and this one may seem somewhat similar to other plot devices but rest assured….I racked my brains for ages, and it was the only way that worked! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery anyway…

Then, it was full circle. Back to the beginning with somewhere around 20,000 words, leaving off where the original short story had finished. Billy had to make his escape somewhere, after tying up a few loose ends. So where? There was only one place: Japan.

By The Sword #1

Posted: February 28, 2011 in By The Sword, Novels

About a year ago, I had an idea. A sword-wielding Glasgow killer, like those nutters who hack at people with internet Samurai swords. But this bloke would be the real thing, a combination of Japanese warrior and Glasgow hardman. His name came at the same time: Banzai Billy. Great ideas, but I needed a story to hang around him.

Then, there was the Alibi crime writing competition. It even supplied a first line, courtesy of Stuart Macbride: Those who beg for mercy deserve it the least. This sparked a 5,000 word short story featuring crime analyst Grace Andrew and a web of betrayal leading to Banzai Billy.

It wasn’t a very good short story. Too much happened in it. So, it didn’t win. But those great people at the Glasgow Writers Group suggested that I turned it into a novel. So I did. The core idea was still there, but the story grew a front end and back end, plus supporting characters including the corrupt politician ‘Big’ Jim McConnarty, and a final showdown in Japan. I even spoke to Stuart MacBride who said I could keep his first line.

Now, the novel is nearly finished and this is its story…while I remember it!