Sunday, August 16, 2009

Here Comes The Blind Commissioner

With the family away in Ireland for a few weeks; I spent the entire weekend transcribing interviews and writing a few articles, as well as reworking my own SF-tingered thriller OBSERVATION.

To give myself a reward to look forward to after all the work, I picked up the WATCHMEN DVD which I rocked to last night. Watchmen is a special graphic novel that blew away my world back in the 1980’s. I recall vividly when I attended COMICANA in London, I guess in 1987 when the Graphic Novel came of age with not only Watchman, but also Frank Miller’s re-interpretation of Batman. Both Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore as well as Frank Miller attended Comicana. I enjoyed meeting both of them and having my comics signed.

Anyway, despite loving Bob Dylan’s original, I have to admit My Chemical Romance’s reworking of DESOLATION ROW that closes the movie is spectacular. I had difficulty getting the song out of my head, so I’m now streaming it directly into yours.

Watchmen despite some mixed reviews, is still a remarkable movie and those opening credits with Dylan telling us ‘Times they are a Changing’ are superb.

My Chemical Romance - Desolation Row Lyrics

They’re selling postcards of the hanging
Well, they’re painting the passports brown
And the beauty parlor’s filled with sailors
The circus is in town

Oh now look here comes the blind commissioner
Well, they’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker
The other’s in his pants
And the riot squad they’re restless

They need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight
From Desolation Row

Oh Cinderella, she seems so easy

“Well, it takes one to know one,” she smiles
And she puts her hands in her back pockets
Oh Bette Davis style
And now but here comes Romeo, moaning“You Belong to Me I Believe”
And then someone says,"You’re in the wrong place, my friend
You better leave”
And then the only sound that’s left

After the ambulances goIs Cinderella sweeping up
On Desolation Row

Now at midnight all the agents

And superhuman crew
Go out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do (knows more than they do)
They’re gonna bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles

By insurance men who go
Check to see that no one is escaping
To Desolation Row

‘Cause right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no letters no
Not unless you’re gonna mail them
From Desolation Row

Song Information
Released January 26, 2009 (digital)

Recorded 2008 Genre Alternative rock

Length 2:59

Label Reprise Records, Warner Sunset Records

Writer Bob Dylan

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ingrid Pitt at WHC 2010

I was delighted to get this update from the WHC Organisers, as I met Ingrid Pitt many years ago and she is as charming as she is beautiful. Many people didn’t realise that Pitt penned a thriller ‘Cuckoo Run’ as well as her autobiography “Life’s a Scream”. She told me about the time she worked with Clint Eastwood and Richard Burton on WHERE EAGLES DARE and the tragic death of Mary Ure [her co-star] in 1975. She is a wonderful actress, writer and an icon of the Horror Genre.

World Horror Convention 2010 is delighted to announce that our very Special Media Guest is Hammer Film’s “Queen of Horror” – actress and author INGRID PITT.

The Polish-born actress’ roles in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), COUNTESS DRACULA (1970), THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1970), THE WICKER MAN (1973), Clive Barker’s UNDERWORLD (aka TRANSMUTATIONS, 1985), MINOTAUR (2006) and the ‘Vampirology’ episode on the URBAN GOTHIC TV series have established her as an icon in the horror film genre. Her latest credit is a new version of Edgar Allen Poe’s THE TELL-TALE HEART (2009).She has also written THE INGRID PITT BEDSIDE COMPANION FOR VAMPIRE LOVERS, THE INGRID PITT BEDSIDE COMPANION FOR GHOSTHUNTERS and THE INGRID PITT BOOK OF MURDER, TORTURE AND DEPRAVITY. Additionally, she contributed an Introduction and an original story to THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE STORIES BY WOMEN, and her autobiography, LIFE’S A SCREAM, was published by Heinemann in 1999.

At World Horror Convention 2010, Ingrid Pitt will be selling signed copies of her books, photos, DVDs and other memorabilia. There will also be a fee for her to sign items brought into the event. However, she will not charge to sign copies of the convention’s hardcover souvenir book and THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF VAMPIRE STORIES BY WOMEN. Please do not embarrass her (or yourself) by asking her to sign any other items for free.For your copy of the Pitt of Horror catalogue or information about The Ingrid Pitt Fan Club, please send your address and a large s.a.e. (or three International Reply Coupons from overseas) to: Pitt of Horror, PO Box 403, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 6FW, England, or visit the web site at* * *Celebrating its 20th Anniversary, The World Horror Convention will be held over March 25-28, 2010, in the historic Regency seaside city of Brighton, on the picturesque south coast of England. This is the first time that the event will have been held off the North American continent.

The theme is “BRIGHTON SHOCK! – A CELEBRATION OF THE EUROPEAN HORROR TRADITION FROM VICTORIAN TIMES TO THE PRESENT DAY”, and the convention will host numerous panels, talks, presentations, readings, workshops and displays devoted to horror, macabre, mystery and thriller fiction and art in all its varied and fearsome forms.
The venue will be the historic Royal Albion Hotel, which dates back more than 180 years and is situated directly opposite the iconic Brighton Pier and a stone’s throw from the beach. There are plenty of alternative hotels and Bed & Breakfasts in the immediate surroundings, catering for all budgets, and Brighton is filled with restaurants, wine bars and clubs. Antiquarian shopping precinct The Lanes, the Sea Life Centre and the world-famous Royal Pavilion are also within easy walking distance. Brighton has direct transport links from Gatwick International Airport and the centre of London, and is easily accessible for overseas visitors, especially those from mainland Europe. And if you want to extend your stay, then Britain’s annual National Science Fiction Convention, Odyssey 2010, is being organised near to Heathrow airport the following weekend. Come for World Horror and stay for Eastercon!

INGRID PITT joins Author Guests of Honour TANITH LEE and DAVID CASE, Artist Guests of Honour LES EDWARDS and DAVE CARSON, and Editor Guest of Honour HUGH LAMB. Best-selling author JAMES HERBERT is the Special Guest of Honour, and Mistress of Ceremonies is JO FLETCHER. Other writers, artists, agents, editors and publishers already registered as attending World Horror Convention 2010 include: ANGRY ROBOT BOOKS (UK), Kelley Armstrong, Randy Broecker, Edward W. Bryant Jr., Pat Cadigan, Ramsey Campbell, CENTIPEDE PRESS (USA), Basil Copper, Peter Crowther, Ellen Datlow, Scott Edelman, Bob Eggleton, Christopher Fowler, Jane Frank, Gary Fry, W. Paul Ganley, GRAY FRIAR PRESS (UK), Simon R. Green, Heather Graham, John Jarrold, JEMMA PRESS (Greece), Stephen Jones, Paul Kane, Nancy Kilpatrick, Allen Koszowski, Tim Lebbon, Samantha Lee, Brian Lumley, Dorothy Lumley, L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims, Gary McMahon, Farah Mendlesohn, MORTBURY PRESS (UK), Mark Morris, Lisa Morton, Yvonne Navarro, Adam L.G. Nevill, NEWCON PRESS (UK), Kim Newman, Reggie Oliver, Weston Ochse, Sarah Pinborough, David Pirie, John L. Probert, PS PUBLISHING (UK), REBEL E PUBLISHERS (South Africa), Tony Richards, David A. Riley, Mark Samuels, SCI FI WIRE, SCREAMING DREAMS (UK), Steven Savile, Robert Shearman, Michael Marshall Smith, SNOWBOOKS (UK), Alexandra Sokoloff, David A. Sutton, TARTARUS PRESS (UK), TELOS PUBLISHING (UK), Lisa Tuttle, Stephen Volk, Ian Watson, Conrad Williams, and F. Paul Wilson, amongst many others.The Horror Writers Association’s prestigious annual Bram Stoker Awards for excellence in horror and fantasy fiction will be presented at a gala Fish & Chips Banquet on the evening of Saturday, March 27. This event will be one of the highlights of the convention, and will include past Stoker Award winners and our Guests of Honour as award presenters.And don’t forget, registered members of the convention can now vote for the World Horror Convention’s prestigious GRAND MASTER AWARD, which will presented at the Stoker Banquet. An electronic voting form is available on the convention website and a printed version was included in the printed Progress Report #1. A list of past recipients – who have included Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, Anne Rice, Ray Bradbury, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Brian Lumley, Ramsey Campbell and Tanith Lee – is displayed on the same page.All information about the convention, hotel and location is available on our, including an easy to use PayPal Registration Form (which will automatically convert your payment at the current exchange rate). Or you can print off the form and send it with a cheque (sterling only) to:

World Horror Convention,
PO Box 64317,
London NW6 9LL,

PLEASE NOTE: The registration price will increase on October 1st, 2009, so if you have not already – book NOW!

With numerous writers, artists, editors, publishers and booksellers expected to attend from all over the world, this is the one event that the dedicated horror fan, professional, collector or dealer cannot afford to miss!Wish you were here? Well, now you can be . . .


Friday, August 7, 2009

Porter's 'Dying Light'

I really enjoy Thriller writer and journalist Henry Porter’s weekly political column in the British Sunday Observer, as he often casts his eye over the growing erosion of our civil liberties in Great Britain. Though I am growing very concerned about the future of this great newspaper. Like most of print journalism, the Sunday Observer, part of The Guardian Media Group is under threat of closure if rumours are to be believed. Henry Porter is well known in London literary circles, as he has written for most national broadsheet newspapers. He was editor of the Atticus column on The Sunday Times, moving to set up the Sunday Correspondent magazine in 1988. He contributes commentary and reportage to The Guardian, Observer, Evening Standard and Sunday Telegraph. He is the British editor of Vanity Fair and divides his time between New York and London.

Porter apart from his journalism is also an accomplished writer of politically charged espionage thrillers. In fact he won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2005 for his novel ‘Brandenburg’ from Orion.

I bumped into him in February at the Orion Authors Party, during drinks I asked him when his latest work would be released. He advised me that ‘Dying Light’ would be out this summer, and it touches upon my own concerns about us all sleep-walking into the pages of Orwell’s 1984.

Today Porter writes in The Independent about ‘Dying Light’ as well as why he is writing about his growing concerns about the role of state endorsed surveillance -

What is the certain evil that animates the contemporary spy writer now? Jihadism would be it, if terrorist actions and lunacy had not outstripped the imagination of any writer. Crime syndicates and arms dealers – possibly. Big business and the behemoths of the Internet age – certainly. Twenty years ago, a chief executive officer saying, as Google's chairman Eric Schmidt did, that the mission of his company was quite simply to organise all the world's information would have signalled some kind of mental disorder. That dominance will bring undreamed of opportunities for abuse in a world where more than ever knowledge is power, and I look forward to the first thriller set in a company like Google.

But it is the state, now so often propelled by the same controlling and monopolistic vices of big business, which has become the certain enemy. This is not new, but the technology at the disposal of the state is, and so is the collapse of liberal self-belief. As Russia and China developed what the Israeli academic Azar Gat described as "authoritarian capitalism", the West no longer needed to distinguish itself or define its beliefs in response to a totalitarian ideology.

We lost the use of a muscle and began to ditch the things that we stood for during the communist era. Governments, particularly in Britain, edged towards milder versions of this authoritarian capitalism, stripping the inventory of freedoms on the pretext of protecting the people, while extending the power of the state. So east and west have begun to draw inexorably towards each other, like Smiley and Karla on the bridge, which is why the conclusion of Smiley's People now seems so clever.

My last adult novel, Brandenburg, also ended on a bridge between East and West Berlin, but at the time of fall of the Wall and a moment of incredulous joy. The book describes the journey of a former Stasi agent through the October demonstrations in Leipzig and Berlin to the moment when East Germans burst into the light of a free society on 9November 1989. I was always fascinated by what had gone on in the six weeks before, and East Germans' defiance of the 80,000 members of the Stasi with their database and networks of informers.
My new novel, The Dying Light, is set in Britain of the near future and describes a society that is moving ever so gradually in the opposite direction; a country that has woken too late to a power grab by the state.

Read More

While over at The Economist, Porter’s ‘Dying Light’ is reviewed and described as a very British Thriller –

OVER the past decade, Henry Porter has regularly produced a new thriller every two years. The long break since his last book, “Brandenburg”, is the direct result of his growing involvement in the fight over civil liberties and free speech in Britain, first under Tony Blair and now under Gordon Brown. Refusing to succumb to complacency, Mr Porter has become a rallying figure for concerned liberals, first through his pointed commentaries on the op-ed pages of the Observer and more recently as the organiser of the Convention on Modern Liberty. His worries about what Britain is becoming now fill his fiction.

His fifth novel, “The Dying Light”, is set somewhere in the middle of the next decade. Ever since the 2012 Olympics in London, Britain has become more and more of a database police state. Hotel guests have to fill in registration forms that are filed with the authorities. You cannot leave the country without informing them too. Sophisticated computer software tracks every purchase, every hospital visit, every car journey. Coroners’ courts, that traditional bastion of independence, are under secret political control. British subjects are routinely put under surveillance by flying drones or harassed by the police, the tax authorities and social services. “We do not want any mischief at this stage,” the prime minister explains. “Mischief”, which describes everything from anti-social behaviour to terrorism, is a word Mr Porter’s prime minister uses a lot

Read More

Photo of Henry Porter taken at Orion Author Party Feb 14th 2009 London © 2009 Ali Karim

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Larsson's Virtual Stockholm

I know I border on the obsessive when it comes to the work of Stieg Larsson, especially as the excitement is building again. Firstly I’ve been invited to a special press screening of the Swedish film version of ‘Men Who Hate Women’ [aka ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’] in London soon. I heard that talks are advanced about a US version; and of course Vol III of the Millennium Series ‘The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest’ is due out in the first English Translation this Autumn from Quercus.

It seems I’m not alone about my love for Larsson’s work. I wrote about the Swedish tourist board following the international success of this late journalist turned crime-writer’s work. I have over the years travelled the world, and I enjoyed the brief time I spent in Stockholm, which included buying books at Hedegrens Bookstore back in 2001.

I was pleased to see that the Swedish Tourist Board have now put on a virtual Stieg Larsson Millennium tour

The books; ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, ‘The Girl Who Played with Fire’ and ‘The Girl who Kicked over the Hornet’s Nest’ became mega-hits in Sweden and the English, French and German language translations of the first two sold millions of copies.

Södermalm, where most of the intrigue in the Millenium series takes place, used to be a blue-collar area of Stockholm and is one of fourteen islands that make up the capital city. Over the past couple of decades the area has been spruced up, for good or for bad, and is the setting for much of the action in his books – and of the Millenium tour, run by the Stockholm City Museum.

This 90-minute walking tour is in English and French and its highlights include Götgatan, where Mikael Blomkvist’s, the trilogy’s main character, office is; the view over Riddarfjärden from his apartment and ‘Kvarnen’, a legendary drinking hall on Södermalm frequented by Lisbeth Salander, another main character in the books.

Click Here to see the Millennium Virtual Tour

If that hasn’t slaked your thirst for Sweden’s crime fiction then why not take the Kurt Wallander virtual tour of Ystad -

The beautiful south-coast town of Ystad draws Kurt Wallander fans from near and far to the settings and crime scenes of Henning Mankell’s dour detective’s world. Ystad is a small town with a big harbour, with boats going to and from Poland and Bornholm (Denmark). The network of streets in the old part of town is pretty much the same as it was back in medieval times and there are many fine examples of houses and buildings from this period. On the guided “Wallander” tour around the town you get to see Hotel Continental, where Wallander frequently dines out, the flower shop on the corner of Pottmakaregränd and Västra Vallgatan, and Mariagatan, where Wallander lives. You also visit Ystad Studio, the police station where he works and his favourite hamburger and pizza joints.

For a plethora of my articles, interviews and features on Stieg Larsson and his work – click here

Ghosting Thrillers

I loved Robert Harris’ ITW Award Winning political thriller ‘The Ghost’ with its satirical portrayal of a controversial ‘ex-British Prime Minister’ writing his memoirs, via a ghost-writer [including his role in the so-called ‘War on Terror’]. I loved the book which fictionalised not only the PM but also the role of a ghost-writer. I recently interviewed thriller writer Joe Finder [Vanished] who was the head judge for the ITW Best Novel Panel that selected Harris’ The Ghost, and this is what he had to say –

Ali Karim: Last year you served as a head judge for the 2008 Thriller Awards, handling the Best Novel nominees. What sort of work did you face in that position?

Joe Finder: It involved reading hundreds of novels, which was incredibly time-consuming. There was plenty of crap, but there were also a lot of really good thrillers. The problem my fellow judges and I faced was how to choose among some very different sorts of thrillers--romantic suspense, action, military, high-tech, quiet and literary, fast and gripping. We ended up choosing Robert Harris’ The Ghost, which is a wonderful book. But there were other novels equally good that year, to be honest. They just didn’t grip everyone in the same way.

Though there are many rumours within the industry about co-written thriller novels as well as fully ghosted thriller novels. So, I was amused to see that in these times of hardship for professional thriller-writers due to the economic crisis forcing cutbacks in conventional publishing; two thriller-writers are looking at ghosting as a method to augment their income, reports NPR today

When Grant Blackwood got out of the Navy in 1987, he decided he wanted to write thrillers. He knew it might be awhile before he could support himself by writing, but in the meantime he was willing to do whatever it took — including chopping wood and driving a limousine — to make his dream come true.

Twelve years later, Blackwood had his first novel published and figured he was home free. But he quickly learned that becoming a successful novelist is like a series of graduations with no guarantee of what happens afterward.

"You decide to sit down and write the book, and you do it — that's a little graduation. You finish the book — that's a little graduation. You find an agent, you find a publisher — that's another one," says Blackwood. "After going through all those hurdles, you think 'OK, I've made it. I've broken that last wall.' But the sad truth is you've only come up against a bigger wall."

That bigger wall is getting your book sold — and then selling the next one.
Jenny Siler, who also writes thrillers, got her career off to a great start when her first novel brought in a $150,000 advance.

"That enabled me to start writing professionally and support myself through my writing," says Siler. "[But] as time went on, my books became more literary and my advances became smaller."

Siler's most recent advance was $20,000, and though her husband also brings in money and they live modestly, that still isn't enough to support her, since it takes her between 12 and 18 months to write a book.

So both Siler and Blackwood have chosen to supplement their incomes by turning to ghostwriting.

For Blackwood, the decision came when the sales of his novels started dwindling. After his publisher turned down his fourth novel, Blackwood's editor promised he'd help him find work.

"It wasn't more than six months later when he called, and he said, 'I have this book. It's perfect for you. It's right up your alley, and we want to pay you for it,' " Blackwood says.

Read the full article here including an audio track

Note : Jenny Siler also writes under the name Alex Carr

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mad Men Drummers, Bummers & Indians in the Summer

Jeff Peirce at The Rap Sheet alerted me to -

To promote the third season of AMC-TV’s Mad Men, which begins on Sunday, August 16, the show’s brilliant minds have launched a Web site that lets you become a character on their stylish series.

So I thought why not give it a go - so please find my Mad Men Avatar complete with my favourite suit and coffee mug.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Avoiding a Cain Mutiny

I was amused to read about Tom Cain’s controversial fictional online-thriller Bloodsport in this morning’s Sunday Times. It seems Roland White in his Atticus Column is equally amused -

Any similarity to real PMs is coincidental

As if the Lake District weather wasn’t bad enough for Gordon Brown’s holiday, a fictional assassin is currently stalking the area in search of a fictional prime minister.

The author Tom Cain’s latest thriller, Bloodsport, tells how Sam Carver, hero of three previous books, hunts down this entirely fictional leader in revenge for the death of a friend in Afghanistan. The story kicks off today on a website called
The Rap Sheet.

Have you understood clearly that this prime minister is entirely fictional and not based on any current leader (no names, no pack drill)? Good, because Cain has been very aware of the 2006 Terrorism Act, which is very strict about writers who encourage assassination attempts.

“I must emphasise that no real prime ministers were harmed in the making of this story,” he says. “Although the only complaints I’ve had so far are from people who are peeved that I’m using a fictional prime minister.”

Read the full Atticus column here

Remember The Rap Sheet will feature an exclusive interview with Tom Cain later today Sunday 2nd August, and serialise Bloodsport on Monday 3rd Aug, Tue 4th Aug with the conclusion on Wed 5th August. It is an explosive read – believe me.

For more information about Cain’s Bloodsport – click here and why I decided to get involved in the project here