Monday, 29 April 2013


This week I am delighted to introduce one of the stars of the Brit Grit revolution – Howard Linskey. Howard’s books are all excellent reads and I have had the privilege of reviewing all three. They are earthy, gritty and compulsive reading. Anyway, enough from me, here’s Howard.

For the past three years now I’ve been living with a gangster. It’s been a dysfunctional and abusive relationship but you might be surprised to learn that he took the brunt of the violence not me. In three books now; ‘The Drop’, ‘The Damage’ and ‘The Dead’, which has just been published by No Exit, I have taken great delight in placing my Geordie, white-collar criminal, David Blake, in trouble again and again. Blake has been beaten up and shot at, chased by men on motor bikes then threatened with imprisonment, torture and execution. He has been targeted by hit men, assaulted by Police officers and forced to fend off an attacker in his apartment, using nothing but an urn containing the ashes of his girlfriend’s mother. 

Blake is no saint however and he, in turn, has killed people in all three books; with knives, guns, machetes or simply by ordering their deaths. Not bad for a man who never actually considers himself to be a gangster. Blake’s life is pretty stressful, so he has occasionally turned to drugs but, being an old fashioned, northern lad, he tends to prefer booze or, on occasions, women to relieve that stress. He is not the best boyfriend material however, having cheated on his girl with minimal guilt, and is unlikely to empathise with you if you’ve had a hard day at the office, as it is unlikely to have been as tough as the 24 hours he has endured.

And what has David Blake given me in return for all of the grief I’ve put him through? Well, plenty. Apart from the obvious relief and joy that comes with finally becoming a published author and seeing my name on a book cover, I wasn’t sure what to expect as a first time novelist. Would anybody read my book, would anyone actually like it? Thankfully they did and they do. I have had some wonderful moments because of Blake. I’ve been reviewed positively by, amongst others, The Daily Mail and The Times; the latter naming me as one of their top five thriller writers of the year because of ‘The Drop’, an accolade that I still can’t quite believe, even now. Frankly I’d be happy to have that one etched on my tombstone.

In the north east in particular, the books have gone down really well and I have received a stack of messages from folk who enjoyed reading a story that is set in an area they know. I’ve been interviewed in all of the local papers, made numerous appearances on BBC Radio Newcastle and even been on TV. I’ve also given away my books in competitions on, the web site for exiled Newcastle United fans around the globe, which I think gave me almost as much pleasure as the Times review. ‘The Drop’, renamed ‘Crime Machine’, has been published to great reviews in Germany, so ‘The Damage’ will follow it there next year and, in the Autumn, Harper Collins will publish both books in the U.S. God knows what they will make of my Geordie gangster in America.

The only thing that could possibly top all of the above is the e-mail my publisher received from someone claiming to work for David Barron, producer of the Harry Potter films. He had apparently bought a copy of my book, read it, loved it and wanted to turn it into a TV series. This seemed a tad unlikely but it turned out, astonishingly, to be true. A few weeks later I was sitting in my agent’s London office in a meeting with David, who turned out to be a very nice bloke indeed. I spent a pleasant hour or two with the man behind the most successful movie franchise the world has ever seen, discussing the practicalities of bringing David Blake to the small screen. The scripts are being developed by JJ Connolly, another top man, who wrote the great British gangster flick, ‘Layer Cake’. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to watch David Blake being put in peril all over again; this time on the telly.

Now that the trilogy is finally complete, I’m not going to say whether Blake, or his large assortment of supporting characters from the Newcastle underworld, will ever make a re-appearance. That’s dependant on me coming up with a strong enough storyline. The last thing I want to do is churn out two dozen very similar books, on auto pilot that, like Hollywood sequels, fall foul of the inevitable law of diminishing returns.

I have an idea for a new book and I’m afraid there’s no space for David Blake in this one. I owe the fellah a great deal but I’ve been seeing other people lately; in my mind’s eye at least. I’m going to take a break from Blake for a while, to allow some different characters to live with me instead. However there is no way I am ever going to forget the man and everything he has done for me. Who knows, maybe one day, I’ll come crawling back to him.

Howard's debut novel The Drop was voted as one of the Top Five Thrillers of 2011 by The Times. Harry Potter producer David Barron and JJ Connolly, author of Layer Cake, are joining forces to produce a TV adaptation of The Drop. The follow-up novel The Damage was voted a top Summer read by The Times.

Howard Linskey has worked as a barman, journalist, catering manager and marketing manager for a celebrity chef, as well as in a variety of sales and account management jobs. Originally from Ferryhill in County Durham, he now lives in Hertfordshire with his wife Alison and daughter, Erin. Howard is a long-suffering Newcastle United fan.
His website can be found at

My thanks to Howard for the guest post.

I have Ruth Jacobs next week followed by Matt Bendoris. After that It'll be little old me for a few weeks although I also have an interview with Lee Child to post and a future guest post from David Thomas / Tom Cain coming in July.


Monday, 22 April 2013

A Call to Action

This week's guest post is Matt Hilton taking about new vehicles for old writing. 

Back in ye olde days, when Knights were bold and ebooks weren’t invented… 

…I wrote short stories. The thing was, I didn’t sell too many of them or even get them published. It wasn’t through lack of trying. I used to send them off to print magazines and answered calls for submission to yearly print anthologies and such like. Maybe – or should that read probably? – the stories weren’t up to scratch.  It’s highly likely. There was also the problem that so many other writers were doing the same thing that an unknown like me didn’t stand a chance of getting in. But it didn’t put me off writing. 

These days I’m best known for writing action thrillers, primarily my Joe Hunter series, the eighth of which – Rules of Honour – was published this February by Hodder and Stoughton, but I also still enjoy writing short stories as and when I can. In fact, that’s not totally true. I write them as a matter of course. It’s my way of getting through the dreaded ‘writer’s block’. If ever I’m at a stall on the latest novel, I’ll switch tack and write a short. It serves to clear my head, while working in a different voice, and subconsciously while going through that process I’ll work out the problem that was holding up the novel. When writing these shorts I’m not picky on the genre.  I’ll happily write crime fiction, gritty slice of life, humorous crime, horror, heroic fantasy and also larger than life, over the top action stories that take me back to my early reading roots. 

I was born in the mid-1960s, and was in my early teens by the end of the 1970s. At the time I was already reading voraciously (as well as writing), but it wasn’t the kind of books boys of my age would normally have been attracted to. I was reading from my father’s stash of ‘Men’s Adventure Fiction’ and my favourites were the likes of Mack Bolan, Remo Williams, Nick Carter, Edge and Adam Steele. It made sense that my writing would reflect my reading habits, and even back then I was churning out my own pastiches. Over the intervening thirty years I’ve never lost that love for action books, and when setting out to write my Joe Hunter series firmly intended giving a nod to those old influences.

With Joe Hunter I’ve to be mindful of modern thinking and ideology, and try to keep them contemporaneous and largely up to date. But that doesn’t stop me allowing my imagination to wander when penning (or typing) my short stories.  

I was late to grasp hold of the eBook bandwagon. In fact, I resisted it. I’m a hopeless romantic who longs for ye olde days, and it took me a while to catch on. When I looked around something was happening and it was good. Genre fiction was making a comeback, and the eBook was the new platform for it. I saw an opening where ‘Men’s Adventure Fiction’ had a viable new publishing route, and I grabbed at it. 

My original plan was to put together a collection of my own stories, but then I had an epiphany. I wondered how many other writers out there shared similar influences to mine, and who also had a few over the top actioners lying around with no home for them. So, instead, I decided I’d put out the call for submissions for a project I called ACTION: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1. To my surprise and delight, dozens of stories flooded in, and some of them from well established household names too. I put out the collection of 37 action packed stories a little under a year ago, and though not a blazing success by way of sales, it has been well received and has gained some glowing reviews from readers. On the back of writers and readers’ enthusiasm it fired my own enthusiasm for the old style action stories again. 

So much so that I’ve decided to go for another blast of pulse pounding action. Yes, I’m putting together ACTION Volume 2, with a mind to publishing it as an ebook late May or early June 2013. 

Okay, this isn’t an advert for my latest collection (well, not really), but to show that there are viable options for your own stories these days. I guess it’s about finding the right vehicle. The options are wide open now, through eBooks, POD, and even self-publishing ventures. ACTION Volume 1 would never have been picked up by a traditional publishing house, but it’s now out there, being read and enjoyed by many, and has opened the door for ACTION 2 to be also published. What I’m trying to say is, all those stories you thought would never sell, well, maybe they just might. It’s about checking out other ways of attracting a readership, and though I’m late to the ball, I’m hopefully here to stay. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an ACTION Volume 3 further down the line.
Many thanks to Matt for a great post which certainly struck a chord with me.

Future guest blogs
Howard Linskey - 29th April
Ryth Jacobs - 5th May
Matt Bendoris - 12th May
Lee Child Interview - TBC
Tom Cain / David Thomas - July