Monday, September 5, 2011

Meet Me in St. Louis

My final week frantically organizing things before heading off with Mike Stotter and Roger Ellory to Bouchercon 2011 ‘The World Mystery and Crime-Fiction Convention’ – this year’s event is being held in St. Louis Missouri.

I’m moderating two panels, so if you find yourself at Bouchercon, St Louis next weekend, why not find out something about PI Fiction as well as the globalisation of Crime Fiction.

Saturday Sept 17 10:00AM-11:00AM - I’M ALIVE AND ON FIRE

Rumors of the private eye fiction’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Ali Karim (M), Max Allan Collins, Douglas Corleone, Barbara Fister, Rick Helms, Robert J. Randisi

Saturday Sept 17 11:30AM-12:30PM - FALLS THE SHADOW

Globalization of crime fiction
Ali Karim (M), Mark Billingham, Sara Blaedel, Deon Meyer, Karin Slaughter, Martyn Waites

More information about Bouchercon 2011 can be found here

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Existential Background to Spartan

I enjoy thrillers based around the looking glass world of international espionage especially by scribes who have the credentials of authenticity, and writing ability that reflects the existential aspects of the world they portray. The best debut thriller that has passed my reading table this year is without doubt Matthew Dunn’s Spartan [aka Spycatcher in the US], coming from Orion Imprint Swordfish in the UK managed by editor / author Rowland White, and from executive editor David Highfill at HarperCollins US imprint Wm Morrow.

Many know my obsessive nature when a powerful debut captures my mind. I just have to learn more about it, as it enriches the memory of the work, and enhances my own understanding of the dynamics of storytelling. So I was interested in discovering how Rowland White had discovered Matthew Dunn, as well as finding a little about his own writing. The interesting factor is that Rowland followed up his bestselling Vulcan 607 and Phoenix Squadron with newly released Storm Front, a tale that perhaps provides insight into why Spartan / Spycatcher appealed to him, with its tale of the British SAS on a covert mission into the Middle-East -

In early 1970, the Commanding Officer of 22 SAS flew into the strategically critical Sultanate of Oman on a covert intelligence mission. A Communist rebellion in the South threatened not only the stability of the Arabian Peninsula but more importantly the West’s vital oil routes through the Persian Gulf.

Six months later, following a coup d’etat supported by the British Government, the SAS deployed to Oman to lead a fierce, secret war against the rebels. While, from a remote RAF airbase in the desert, an elite band of British pilots, flying difficult, dangerous missions in Strikemaster jets and Vietnam-era Huey helicopters, were scrambled alongside them in support.

For the British soldiers and airmen, it was to be no easy victory. The enemy were well supplied with weaponry and training from China and the Soviet Union, and despite confronting the largest assault force ever deployed by the SAS, many months later the rebels were still fighting back.

And at dawn on July 19th, 1972, a force of nearly 300 heavily armed, well-trained guerillas attacked the little fishing port of Mirbat without warning. Between them and glory stood a team of just nine SAS men. And the skill of the British fighter pilots. The scene was set for an epic encounter. Their heroism would become SAS legend.

Drawing on extensive interviews with participants from the SAS, the RAF and the Sultan’s Armed Forces, most of whom have never spoken about their involvement before, as well as previously classified documents from both the UK and Oman, Storm Front weaves an unputdownable tale of intrigue, action, daring and astounding bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

So like an SAS man, I tracked the busy Rowland White down and asked him to let me know how he came across this remarkable debut novel -

Netting Swordfish’s First Catch by Rowland White

In launching the Swordfish list I wanted to publish books that appealed for the same reasons as those that inspired me when I was growing up. I loved to lose myself in adventure, danger and exotic locations in the company of naturalists, spies, explorers and soldiers. On my reading list were authors like Willard Price, Herge, Ian Fleming, Paul Brickhill, Wilbur Smith and Clive Cussler. I wanted a Swordfish book to capture readers’ imaginations in the same way and, in Spartan, ex-MI6 field operative, Matthew Dunn’s explosive debut novel, I’ve got one. Agent Luigi Bonomi told me, when making his submission, that Matthew’s book would be up my street and it was quickly clear that his instinct was on the money. When I first tucked into the manuscript I was immediately struck by the Spartan’s distinctive tone. It was hard-edged and muscular, with a confidence and authority that was unusual. I was gripped by its immediacy and sense of purpose.

The book’s hero, MI6/CIA joint asset, Will Cochrane, inhabits a world in which there can be no room for self-doubt or hesitation; where split second decisions have massive repercussions, but where not making a decision is not an option. And it had a ring of authenticity only an ex-intelligence officer could bring to it. It’s pumped up, larger than life and exhilarating. Like Ian Fleming, Matthew’s drawn on his own experience of the secret world to create a hero who, while grounded in reality, operates on the limits of what’s humanly possible. Like all the best adventure thrillers, there’s escapism and wish fulfillment in there. Will Cochrane’s not quite superhuman, but he’s certainly the next best thing. For the reader, the feeling you’re at Will’s shoulder as he conducts his mission is irresistible. Spartan is stunningly dynamic thriller-writing. But alongside kinetic, widescreen action sequences, there’s also tradecraft. There’s excitement, but also insight.

In Will Cochrane, Matthew Dunn’s drawn a hero who I couldn’t wait to go into battle with again. But I’m lucky, as Matthew’s Publisher I get to do that before anyone else. Matthew recently delivered the manuscript for his second thriller, titled Sentinel, it drops us alongside Will Cochrane off the far eastern coast of Russia aboard a rusting trawler as he prepares to infiltrate, alone, unseen, ashore. Reading on, I felt the biting wind and sleet as Will climbed down a rope net towards the churning ocean and I knew I was in for another brutal, bloody and addictive all-action rollercoaster ride. I look forward to many more of them.

Then I managed to interview Matthew Dunn for The Rap Sheet, though he was a naturally a tad coy talking about his time with MI6 / SiS but did provide me this interesting essay on how he became an instrument for Her Majesties Secret Service -

The Route to SIS by Matthew Dunn

The application process to join MI6 is torturous and probably one of the hardest selection procedures in the world in terms of the success to failure rate. It’s designed to be that way for the simple reason that the job of an MI6 field operative is incomparably tough and mentally challenging. Applicants have to sit numerous timed cognitive tests which get increasingly harder to the point of absurdity, have to lead role-play problem-solving exercises, are interviewed extensively, and have to undergo an incredibly intrusive security vetting investigation that lays bare every aspect of your private life. Potential recruits can fail at any stage but it is in the interviews that the real work is done to establish whether you have what it takes to become a spy.

The interviewers are senior intelligence officers who are trained to spot indecisiveness, mental inferiority, frauds, fantasists, and potential traitors. Anyone with those and other weaknesses are quickly toyed with and spat out of the system. If you avoid that, the interviewers will focus on your strengths to see if they are up to the exacting standards required of an MI6 officer. One of the questions they ask is, “Who do you look up to?” If you answer something like, “JFK and Gandhi” then the interview is over. If you answer, “Nobody” it continues. The reason for this is that if you look up to someone, then you perceive yourself to be beneath that person in some way. MI6 does not want people like that. It wants people who have the absolute conviction of a supreme leader.

That’s not to say that MI6 looks for arrogance in its recruits. Successful applicants never display an overbearing sense of self-worth and self-importance, or contempt for the weak. The job of the spy often requires you to interact with individuals who are vulnerable and those people need compassion and leadership from the field officer. Moreover, MI6 operatives will sacrifice their worth and status in a shot if it means getting the job done. They are patriotic and totally dedicated to their missions. Arrogant people put themselves first; MI6 officers do not.

However, a self-belief that you can do things that others cannot is vital. MI6 spies are given extensive and ongoing training in highly specialized use of guns, military unarmed combat, explosives and other aggressive tradecraft actions. But in the field, the most vital weapon of a spy if his or her mind. MI6 officers can move through hostile environments with the confidence and precision of an ultimate predator. People don’t see them, or if they do they think they are seeing something else. The mind of a spy can take that person into places and situations that most would think impossible to access. And very often that’s done without the deployment of a weapon.

Many people have a natural inclination toward subservience to people they believe to be more experienced than them, but MI6 officers are different. You could be a twenty five year old female MI6 field operative who is running a sixty year old male general. The agent might have led thousands of men into war, but you would be his leader and he would expect that of you because his life is in your hands and you are the expert in intelligence matters. If you display anything other than absolute strength and a command of the situation, then your agent will rightly wonder if he is going to die.

The tiny number of applicants who make it through the selection process to join MI6 have an even tougher mountain to climb once they’re within its ranks. They have to get through a rigorous pass or fail training course, are on probation for two years during which time they can be dismissed, and even after that they must prove their worth in every day of employment as a spy. A field officer who cannot operate at one hundred percent of what is expected of them will not be deployed on a mission because, if he was, at best that mission could fail and at worst the officer and others around him could be killed.

But very few MI6 missions do fail, because MI6 recruits the right kind of people. They are a very rare breed of animal. They are the best intelligence operatives in the world.

Text “Netting Swordfish’s First Catch” © 2011 Rowland White
Text “The Route to SIS” © 2011 Matthew Dunn
Matthew Dunn author photo © 2011 Adam Scourfield
Rowland White author photo © 2006 Ali Karim

Buy Matthew Dunn’s Spartan Here
Buy Matthew Dunn’s Spycatcher Here
Buy Rowland White’s Vulcan 607 Here
Buy Rowland White’s Phoenix Squadron here
Buy Rowland White’s Storm Front Here

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blunt, Philby, Burgess & Maclean but who the hell is Hanssen?

As a lover of thriller novels, conspiracies and conspiracy theories as well as investigating how the [mainstream] media operate; I consider myself well-read and well-informed, but this week I uncovered a huge gap in my knowledge. This gap proved to me how reality really is [at worst] controlled, or [at best] shaped and edited as a form of ‘control’. In George Orwell’s novels such as ‘Animal Farm’, the mantra “Four legs good, Two legs bad” gets transformed by the ruling elite [‘the pigs’] following the overthrow of the farmer, into “Four legs good, Two legs better” and its related quasi-sequel ‘1984’; where main protagonist Winston Smith works at the Ministry of Truth, effectively re-writing history and changing the past to create a new and secure future for the ruling elite.

I found evidence this week, how true Eric Arthur Blair [aka ‘George Orwell’] was in his observations on the crucial importance of controlling the masses, or at least by influencing the mainstream media, often deploying the magician’s scantily-clad assistant in deflecting the attention of the observer, and therefore validating the statement ‘that perception is reality’ by the use of smoke and mirrors.

I am referring to my viewing on DVD this week of the 2007 film “Breach”, starring Chris Cooper; and my own annoyance about why, and how I’d missed this outstanding film when it was originally released theatrically. Though the most crucial question I pondered on was - why I had never heard of Robert Hanssen ?

This was due to two factors, firstly Cooper’s career-defining performance as Hanssen, showing a most ‘odd, complex and dangerous’ individual. Despite a strong religious leaning toward extreme Catholicism’s Opus Dei and a robust family background, he hid his secret well, so well that one must question his motivation[s], because they, like his dark side were hidden under a cloak of normalcy.

Secondly I discovered that Hanssen was the most treasonous American citizen in US history, who while holding down a top post at the FBI, sold highly classified US secrets to the Soviet regime for over 22 years. The secrets that Hanssen sold to Moscow, resulted in many US ‘Assets / Agents’ being compromised [tortured and murdered] by the Soviet Security Services [KGB]. The issue I had was despite being well-read, and informed [something I pride myself upon]; I am embarrassed to admit, though knowing much about Aldrich Ames, I was for some reason clueless about Hanssen. Could it do with me living in Britain? I had read significantly about the British traitors Blunt, Philby, Burgess & Maclean more commonly referred to as The Cambridge four [or five]. This conspiracy was mined, loosely to great effect in former ex-SIS recruit turned espionage novelist Charles Cumming in his recent ‘The Trinity Six’ novel.

Here’s a trailer for Breach which sets the scene for this hypnotic thriller that looks into the darkest edges of Human Nature -

Here’s an interview with Chris Cooper on how he decides on what roles to take on and why -

Chris Cooper is one of the most under-rated actors I know and I share his interest in geo-politics and his ‘left of left’ political leanings which often influences his choice of acting roles. This profile of him from the 2007 Edinburgh Festival is most insightful –

Cooper studied drama at the University of Missouri, did a couple of years of summer stock, and then moved to New York City, where he had a ball acting on stage for 12 years. In 1983 he married the actress Marianne Leone (best known here as Joanne Moltisanti in The Sopranos), who pushed Cooper into making films and kick-started his fruitful working relationship and close friendship with Sayles. In 1987 Cooper and Leone had a son, Jesse, who was born with cerebral palsy, who died from causes related to the disease two years ago, aged just 17. Jesse’s parents, who now live in Kingston, Massachusetts, set up the Jesse Cooper Foundation and work tirelessly as advocates for children with special needs (to that end Cooper and Leone are currently collaborating on a film about a mother’s relationship with her severely disabled daughter, Hurricane Mary).

From this background sketch you’ll perhaps have gleaned that Cooper, who speaks like a cowboy, conducts himself with the courtesy of a gentleman rancher, and has experienced something of the bohemian life as well as great personal loss, is a world away from the deceitful but otherwise straight-laced FBI man Robert Hanssen. Cooper describes his own politics as ‘left of left’. Sayles, who most recently cast him as a dimwitted politician and thinly-disguised pre-White House George Bush in the political satire Silver City, calls him a news junkie.

‘As soon as I wake up,’ Cooper confirms, ‘I listen to National Public Radio for the early coverage of what’s happening that day, and I’ll take a look at CNN throughout the day. That really kicked in after 9/11.’

Cooper talks confidently and freely about politics and current affairs: ‘I feel pretty confident we’ll get a Democratic administration next time round,’ he says, ‘but what Bush has done to our world needs a lot of patching up.’ And: ‘We’ve spent so much money on this war our bridges are falling down. As far as the infrastructure goes here, healthcare should be dealt with in this next election.’ And: ‘I’m glad to see Mr Brown is not so comfortable with President Bush. I think he takes a stronger stand on things.’

The actor’s 24/7 interest in news and politics is reflected in his choice of films, which are often distinguished by some degree of political edge: the Bourne films with their indictment of the CIA; Sam Mendes’ war-is-idiotic Gulf conflict drama Jarhead; the oil business conspiracy tale Syriana; and the forthcoming Middle East-set murder mystery The Kingdom. And now Breach, of whose real world basis Cooper says: ‘I remember pretty clearly that it was quite a big piece of news. Only after three or four days of media coverage it disappeared. What I’ve since discovered is this turned out to be a real embarrassment for the FBI. I think they got a hold of the media and shut the story down.’

Read More

After watching Cooper’s hypnotic portrayal of Robert Hanssen [which was mesmerizing] and for me career-defining, I dug a little deeper and then found this report from The Central Intelligence Agency [Langley] which provides a fascinating view into America’s most destructive security beach, one that very few truly understand –

Arguably the most damaging spy in US history, Hanssen repeatedly volunteered his services to Moscow’s intelligence services, cloaking his activities in a fictitious persona (Ramon Garcia) and adamantly refusing to reveal to his handlers the identity of his genuine employer. By all accounts, Hanssen was arrogantly confident in his ability to “play the spy game” according to the rules he created and employed. He gambled that he could deceive the FBI and the Russians and avoid being compromised by any US agent that might have penetrated Moscow’s services.

Many vexing questions exist about Hanssen’s rationale for acting as he did for as long as he did. But nothing has been debated as vigorously as the reasons why he was able to elude detection for two decades. Attempts to confer on Hanssen the mythological status of a “master spy” (e.g., CBS’s made-for-television movie Masterspy: The Robert Hanssen Story) are not supported by the facts of the case, and the key question remains: Why did it take so long for the FBI to catch a mole that had operated with impunity within its ranks for such a long period of time?

Breach, a fast-paced movie directed by Billy Ray, attempts to answer some of these perplexing questions. The movie covers only the last six weeks of Hanssen’s two-decade-long espionage career, opening in the late fall of 2000, when Hanssen first came under the investigative microscope. According to David Wise, author of one of the best of several accounts of Hanssen’s life and perfidy, a successful joint CIA-FBI initiative obtained a package containing a portion of an operational file pertaining to a mole deeply embedded in the US counterintelligence community.
[2] In addition to the file, the package contained three other exceptional pieces of evidence: an audio tape containing two brief telephone conversations between the mole and a KGB interlocutor in 1986, copies of letters written by the mole during 1985–88, and two partial fingerprints lifted from a plastic garbage bag the mole had used to wrap a delivery to Moscow. Wise wrote that the purchase price of the package was $7 million.

It did not take the FBI long to piece together the shards of evidence and come to a stunning conclusion: The mole was one of their own special agents. Equally shocking to the FBI was the realization that the person its investigators had firmly believed to be the mole, a senior CIA counterintelligence specialist who had been the object of an extraordinarily invasive counterespionage investigation over the previous five years, was innocent. Despite the absence of evidence, the FBI had convinced CIA officials that it had good reason to believe that one of CIA’s officers had been responsible for compromising more than 50 compartmented FBI operations against the Soviet and Russian intelligence services operating in the United States during the period 1985–2000.

Read more from The CIA Here

Here’s an interview with Ryan Phillippe who plays Eric O’ Neil FBI undercover agent who was responsible for bringing Hanssen to justice, but ultimately made him re-evaluate the personal cost of living undercover to his personal life.

Then I realized why I had not heard anything of significance about the Film ‘Breach’, from what Chris Cooper said

‘I remember pretty clearly that it was quite a big piece of news. Only after three or four days of media coverage it disappeared. What I’ve since discovered is this turned out to be a real embarrassment for the FBI. I think they got a hold of the media and shut the story down.’

In my opinion ‘Breach’ is one of the greatest political thrillers [together with ‘Syriana’ which also stars Chris Cooper] I’ve seen since the golden age of 1970’s paranoia-cinema, such as ‘Three Days of the Condor’ based on James Grady’s novel ‘Six Days of the Condor’, The Parallax View, Richard Condon’s hugely influential novels that were filmed as Winter Kills and ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, or Alan J. Pakula’s ‘The Parallax View’ – though ‘Breach’ like ‘All The President’s Men’ is based on reality, not conjecture or conspiracy theory.

The discovery this week [for me], of ‘Breach’ and then further research on the whole Robert Hanssen affair distracted me from the dreadful civil disturbances and riots that have peppered many cities and towns in the UK, and which started in North London.

A surreal thought did occur to me for a thriller novella, and one that would be interesting for me to write, and these are the scribbles from my notebook which act as a synopsis –

I Predict a Riot

The world is on the brink of an economic and financial crisis. A lack of an understanding of human nature led to the fall of communism in the 1980’s, and now the ‘endless growth paradigm’ in a world of finite resources, [coupled to the self-same lack of understanding vis-à-vis human nature] is pushing capitalism toward the same path – collapse. To distract the ‘general public’ from the apocalyptic anxieties of the Euro-Crisis and the American Debt-Crisis, and their own problems [unemployment and rising commodity prices] a plan is hatched by ‘the-men-behind-the curtain’. Much frantic work is required behind the scenes [without public introspection as to the reality of the situation], to shore up the economy, so a distraction is created. A small cabal of espionage operatives are dispersed [in ‘hoodies’ and ‘gangster rap’ garb] in an operation across UK cities to spark / incite ‘small to medium scale’ civil disorder, which taps into the “under-classes / economically disadvantaged” and “criminals / gangs” who mount ‘copy-cat’ attacks as looting and rioting spreads in English inner-cities, with the police under instructions to take a ‘softly, softly’ approach. ‘Social Media’ is harnessed to encourage and fan the flames of disorder. The world media focus its fish-eye lens onto the British riots, thus keeping the real news, the economic crisis away from the centre of the camera. The ‘men-behind-the curtain’ can now work away with reduced public introspection, and the general public and ‘chattering classes’ get distracted from their current problems of unemployment, lack of job security, increased costs of energy, public-sector cutbacks, higher taxation – focusing instead on the moral issues behind these riots, brewing up ‘racism’ as humans always like someone to blame. The public demands use of water canon, rubber bullets, harsh punishments for the looters, clamp downs and restrictions on ‘social media’, even ‘hanging’ and agrees that we must give up more of our civil liberties, and freedoms as a cost we have to accept for our own safety. The mission creep toward the fascist society Orwell imagined in 1984 comes closer to reality.

I considered the plot way too far-fetched like this one, or this one, this one, or this one and I have many others, which are too unbelievable to consider that anyone could plan such an outrageous conspiracy, and how the media could be so misdirected, as some allege they were in 1969 when the western world feared the shadow cast by the Russian Space program.

“Four legs good, Two legs better”

If this article has interested you, it would be worth checking out the linkages between Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays and Wilhelm Reich – because everything is existential until it becomes real, but always remember the close linkages between ‘perception and reality’.

Others think that I read far too many thriller novels than is healthy for the mind, while others consider that it could be because my family originates from the North-East Indian State of Bihar, where Eric Arthur Blair was born in 1903, and Blair is more commonly known as George Orwell, a man I admire since reading his work as a young boy.

Or perhaps the reason why the Robert Hanssen story, like the film ‘Breach’ is not mentioned that much is because of the embarrassment it caused the FBI / CIA and the wider intelligence community, as his traitorous behaviour was uncovered in 2001, months prior to the other huge security breach that occurred on September 11th - another incident that provokes debate with the talk of conspiracy, conspiracy theories, security failures and ‘grassy knolls’.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Return of The Lineup

It seems like yesterday that Gerald So and the Gang started publishing poems with a criminal theme. Now with Volume 4 out on release from The Lineup Editors Gerald So with Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Cortez and R. Narvaez, this new collection features many well known names in the genre such as Ken Bruen, David Corbett, Stephen Jay Swartz and many others.

The most important aspect in writing thought-provoking fiction comes with the editing process, as well as the sparseness in the prose to allow the imagination to populate the proceedings. No better medium to illustrate this than the art of poetry, and Lineup 4, has some work that will imprint themselves onto the psyche like that trajectory of a ricochet. Both Bruen’s [Funeral: Of The Wino] and Coleman’s [Slider Part 7] respective contributions fall in that category, and it is interesting to see how such hardboiled writers tell a tale in short form, which contrasts their collaboration ‘The Tower’. I think another appealing quality of this collection is that it intrigued me to seek out some of the writers who I was unfamiliar with, hunting down their prose.

Gerald asked which of these poems was my favourite, which is a tough call, but I have to say that I have a soft spot for David Corbett’s ‘Bargain’ which is a ‘story’ spoken in a darkly lyrical style.

In case this volume has wet your appetite then why not contact Gerald as The Lineup 5 is open for submissions but remember, some of these short pieces remain long in the mind after the book is put down.To order your copy of The Lineup 4 as well as catch up on the preceding volumes click here

Gerald has fixed a blog tour to showcase some the work from contributors and reader / reviewers here

Friday, March 11, 2011

Electronic Leather

The world of publishing is going through real change both from worsening economic factors, but also the method of delivery, namely moving toward e-Books from Papyrus. As usual our American friends seem to be leading the way with writers such as J A Konrath, David Morrell, Blake Crouch, F Paul Wilson and many others exploring the digital frontier. It seems like a blink of eye when Stephen King released ‘The Plant’ as well as ‘Riding The Bullet’ as ‘electronic experiments’, but now e-Books seem to be a permanent fixture of publishing and as each day elapses, the importance of eBooks becomes stronger and stronger.

It seem that eBook success has reached our side of the Atlantic, as reported in The Guardian / Observer, and it takes a thriller writer to show us the way –

Self-publishing has traditionally been a surefire route to obscurity and dismal sales. Now a British thriller writer who sells his novels as ebooks for as little as 70p is proving the naysayers wrong.

Not only does
Stephen Leather, Britain's leading "independent" writer, estimate he has occupied the number one spot on's Kindle ebook bestseller lists for "90% of the last three months", he is also selling "somewhere in the region" of 2,000 ebooks a day – and making big profits in the process.

Leather, who celebrated his seventh consecutive week at the top of the Amazon chart with his novella The Basement, about a serial killer in New York, also occupies fourth place with Hard Landing, another thriller, and 11th place with Once Bitten, a vampire novel.

He is one of many authors increasingly turning to ebooks as an alternative way to the top. Capitalising on the popularity of
e-readers such as the Kindle, a new generation of writers is bypassing agents and publishers and using the flexible pricing model of ebooks to offer their work directly to the public at rock-bottom prices. Some, like Leather, are achieving huge sales, which, not surprisingly, is striking fear into publishers.

Leather enjoys a successful parallel career writing
"big international thrillers" for Hodder & Stoughton. But last August, when opened its Kindle store, he saw an opportunity: "I was lucky, in that I had three novellas Hodder had turned down because they were in a different genre from my other books and too short to work as conventional paperbacks. But I realised they might work for the Kindle."

Leather realised the Kindle was going to be "pretty much the most popular Christmas present ever. It occurred to me that on Christmas morning, when people got their Kindle, the first thing they would do would be to buy the books they'd always wanted –
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the new Grisham. But they're relatively expensive. After that, people would start looking for cheaper books. I figured that if I could get several of my books in the top 10 or top 20, then when people started looking around for bargains I'd be perfectly placed."
To maximise sales, he priced his books at Amazon's minimum for independent writers – about 70p (the equivalent of 99 cents). At this level, authors receive a cut of only 35% of the price; under Amazon's pricing structure, this rises to 70% if they price their books above the equivalent of $2.99. He then went on various forums to drum up awareness. Within a couple of weeks, all three titles were in the top 20 and
"by November I'd knocked Stieg Larsson off the top spot".

"I knew the wave was going to break on Christmas Day. I got myself in position to take advantage, I got on and I've been riding it ever since."

Yet while he is making significant sums just through ebook sales – "up to £11,000 a month" – he still only sees it as a sideline to his main writing career.
"I never went into this to make money. I went into it as a way of widening my readership. My hope was that readers would read my book on Kindle, say, 'I really enjoyed that', then when my new thriller came out with Hodder, they'd remember it and buy that too."

Leather's achievements are dwarfed when set against the scale of independent publishing in the US, where ebooks are estimated to be 20% of the total market. The most spectacular example of an author striking gold through ebooks is 26-year-old former care assistant
Amanda Hocking, a Minneapolis-based writer of paranormal romances. She had completed eight novels but had failed to acquire an agent when, last April, she decided to publish them herself via the Kindle store.

"I sold 50 books the first month. It picked up over the summer, then really took off in November," she said. Hocking is now the world's bestselling ebook author, selling more than 450,000 titles last month alone.

Read More Here

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Fantastic Four Head to St Louis

The nature of reality has always interested me, especially when things in my past reverberate into the future. I am blessed by a very good memory so I can recall [with vivid clarity] many things in my past, but some things just seem to stick with me for reasons that only come clear later in my life.

In 1976 I was a teenager and an avid reader of books and American comics and recall [vividly] issue # 167 of The Fantastic Four thanks to a wonderful Jack Kirby cover featuring ‘The Hulk’ and ‘The Thing’ battling on the St. Louis Arch [see above cover © 1976 Marvel Comics]. That bold Jack Kirby image was awesome, as was the story written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by George Perez and Joe Sinnott, lettered by the wonderful Joe Rosen. The 1960’s and 1970’s of my memory are peppered by the books and comics I read, before the weight of responsibility that adulthood brought into my life. I recall at the time wishing to visit the St. Louis Arch, and wondering if I would ever get the opportunity to do so. Now that teenager is well into middle age, that the opportunity has finally arrived to see the St Louis Arch!

One of the wonderful aspects of being involved in the fandom side of the Crime and Thriller community is attendance at Conventions, especially the ‘Daddy’ which is Bouchercon. I have been fortunate thanks to my annual US trips to Thrillerfest and Bouchercon that I have visited the following cities and had excellent company on my travels -

2003 Bouchercon Las Vegas, Nevada [with ‘Grog’]
2006 Thrillerfest Phoenix, Arizona [with Stav Sherez]
2007 Thrillerfest New York [with Mike Stotter]
2008 Bouchercon Baltimore, Maryland [with Roger Ellory]
2009 Bouchercon Indianapolis, Indiana [with Roger Ellory]
2010 Bouchercon San Francisco, California [with Roger Ellory]

I haven’t listed the visits each year to Harrogate, Left Coast Crime [Bristol in 2006], The World Horror Convention [Brighton 2010] and other such events.

This year I have agreed to attend Crimefest in Bristol [England], Theakstons’ Crime-Writing Festival in Harrogate [England] and Bouchercon St Louis [Missouri]. I am delighted to be travelling to St Louis with my friends Roger [R.J.] Ellory and Shots Editor Mike Stotter as well as meeting up with Shots Social Media Editor Ayo Onatade – making up our own Fantastic Four.

It’s 2011 and I still recall vividly that young teenager, who sat transfixed in 1976 by issue #167 of The Fantastic Four, with that wonderful Jack Kirby cover of the battle on the St. Louis Archway; wondering if he would ever see St Louis.

I can report that, that teenager will indeed be visiting St Louis, but as a middle-aged man, who still has not lost his sense of wonder that only Comics and Books can bring to the imagination.

So I hope to see many of you there, especially my pal, writer / editor Gerald So because apart from seeing the St Louis Archway - finally Gerald and Ali go to White Castle!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crime & Thriller Fiction on World Book Night

In March last year I was contacted by the producers of BBC 2 The Culture Show as they were commissioned to make a program about genre fiction, focusing on [a] Thrillers and Crime Fiction, [b] Chick-Lit and Romance and [c] Science Fiction and Fantasy. They asked me to appear in an interview talking about Crime and Thriller Fiction, from the perspective of a reviewer and well-read fan. The BBC producers were also interested in my early championing of Stieg Larsson and his ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ and how such an unusual novel became such a worldwide sensation.

Despite my complex schedule, I agreed as I use any [and all] opportunity to enthuse people about reading. I am passionate about literacy and consider reading a hugely important aspect of the human experience, and wish more people would read novels. Reading novels promotes people to ‘think’ deeper than TV or Films can, and allows people to view the world though a different perspective and can challenge ‘conventionally’, ‘channeled’ or ‘manipulated’ modes of thinking. Reading is dangerous [but in a good way], and that is why totalitarian regimes often restrict reading with book banning, censorship, even the destruction of books and libraries. The next stage after clamping down on books / reading, is the ‘disappearance’ of the educated and informed, i.e. the reader.

With today’s global economic woes, the danger of the rise of the extreme right and extreme left can be fought back with an educated / informed society, something that reading does – as it informs ‘thinking’, something that extremists suppress in order to control and manipulate the masses. An under-educated and illiterate society can be more easily manipulated than an well-read and educated one.

So when the BBC Film crew arrived at my business premises last year, I had brought some of my rare books, manuscripts and decorated the board room for the filming. The film crew recorded an extensive interview with me about Crime and Thriller Fiction, and filmed some of my favourite books and manuscripts. We had a great time as the BBC team were all enthusiastic readers, and became amused at my ‘geeky’ knowledge and contacts in the crime and thriller fiction world.

Anyway, during the year I was advised by the Producers of BBC Culture Show that the ‘book-program’ had been delayed, but with my own complex work schedule, I thought nothing more of the filming, apart from it being a bit of a laugh, talking about books to the BBC team.

Then with all the build-up to World Book Night last week, I noticed in the TV schedule for Saturday that there was a BBC Culture Show special entitled ‘Books We Really like to Read’ featuring crime / thriller and romance / chick-lit to coincide with World Book Night, so I wondered if they would use any of the footage the BBC shot with me?

So with drinks at hand, the family settled down to watch the BBC 2 World Book Night Special, especially the ‘Books We Really Like To Read’ presented by Sue Perkins, and yes the BBC did use a snippet of the interview they recorded with me last year. Naturally I was disappointed that the full crime-fiction special didn’t appear, but I was glad that they used a ‘sound-bite’ of mine [in context] for the World Book Night Event, [as literacy is crucial for a functioning and fair society]. It is pity they didn’t use any of the extensive material pertaining to my favourite writers, key works of the genre as well my mentioning the world of fandom from Shots, Deadly Pleasures, Mystery Readers International, Crimespree, The Rap Sheet, January Magazine, Mystery Scene, Mystery Women, 4MA, Dorothy L, Rara-Avis et. al as well as the professional associations such as The CWA, MWA, ITW, PWA etc and the conventions such as Harrogate, Crimefest, Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, Left Coast Crime, Love is Murder etc. I also spent time on the various awards such as the CWA Daggers, MWA Edgars, ITW Thrillers etc. Perhaps one day the footage may be used, one hopes.

So with all the terrible issues facing publishing currently from the economic problems forcing bricks & mortar book stores to close, public sector budget cuts forcing many libraries to shut, changes in print journalism, and the shift in ‘medium’ from paper to electronic – any initiative [like World Book Night] that promotes reading and literacy is a good one and must be supported.
The BBC Culture Show ‘Books We Really Read’ is available online at BBC Iplayer [for one week], though restricted to UK access only so I thought it might be useful to feature some of the highlights for those of you unable to access the show, especially those outside the UK.

These clips were recorded from my lap-top using my Iphone, so they are far from High Definition, but watchable [and of interest] for the crime / thriller enthusiast.

Please Note that all these clips are © 2011 British Broadcasting Corporation and used for no commercial reason or benefit to myself. They are posted due to my desire to encourage reading and literacy, with crime and thrillers an excellent entry point for the casual reader. The Full Program can be viewed here. There is also a program about the 1,000,000 books given away on World Book Night here and the BBC Culture Show highlights 12 debut novelists for WBN here – The programs are available online for one week from those links to BBC Iplayer, though geographical restrictions do apply.

Reading is important, and there is nothing ‘downmarket’ with regard to genre fiction as these clips illustrate with insights from Ian Rankin, Lee Child, Ruth Rendell, Dame Agatha Christie, Felix Francis and my little sound-bite. It’s very flattering to find myself amongst such illustrious company.

So if you are feeling depressed, anxious or generally fed-up, why not crack the spine of a good crime thriller because you will soon find your own problems put firmly in perspective, and the process of reading will enrich your life.

I must thank Jamie Byng [Chair of WBN] and all the people who worked on World Book Night mostly pro-bono to get people to [re-]discover the wonder that is reading a novel.

Clip 1 : Introduction to Crime Fiction featuring short insight from Ali Karim

Clip 2 : The legacy of Dame Agatha Christie

Clip 3 : Lee Child and Thriller Novels

Clip 4 : Felix Francis and the legacy of Dick Francis

Clip 5 : Ian Rankin on Crime Fiction

Clip 6 : Ruth Rendell on the dark side of human nature

So with the very serious problems facing publishing, you may feel powerless to help, but all of us can play our role – and here’s how starting from now you should ensure to talk about what books you are reading in general conversation; for birthday and festive occasions buy books as gifts even for the ‘non-reader’, and support your local bookstore be it an independent, or a chain, and when you see your local library facing the axe – do something, sign the petition, write to your council, your member of parliament, congressman or even your Government. Reading is really that crucial to a functioning and fair society because I can hear the footfalls of the Barbarians as they pick at the locks that protect our Gates.

As the adage says ‘use it or lose it’, because reading novels are far more important than many realize as books are the best weapon against the Barbarian.

Disclaimer -

Please Note that all these clips are © 2011 British Broadcasting Corporation and used for no commercial reason or benefit to myself. They are posted due to my desire to encourage reading and literacy, with crime and thrillers an excellent entry point for the casual reader. The Full Program can be viewed
here. There is also a program about the 1,000,000 books given away on World Book Night here and the BBC Culture Show highlights 12 debut novelists for WBN here – The programs are available online for one week from those links to BBC Iplayer, though geographical restrictions do apply.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Existential Future May Feature Rollerskates

I recently re-watched Norman Jewison’s 1975 existential SF classic “Rollerball” and as I did so, I became aware that its future world, set in 2018 is getting rather close. I also realized how today’s reality was actually yesterday’s fictionalized future. The whole set-up of Rollerball player Jonathan E [James Caan] working for ‘The Energy Corporation’, in a world of depleted energy reserves and global instability made the TV images of the worldwide economic instability, war on terror and media control resonate in my mind, like the chimes of the plague bell.

It also made me fearful of the future, as I contemplated where we’re headed.

There are many existential risks that have, and still continue to threaten our species and our way of life. Some of these risks are edging away from the domain of the ‘existential’ into the ‘real’. I spend a lot of time reading; and thinking; and observing reality and then joining the dots I see peppering in front of my line of sight. The more dots I see, and the closer I look, the dots start to converge and a picture comes into focus. The view I see from my vantage point is not pretty.

One must always remember that ‘the observer’ actually plays a part upon ‘the situation’ as it plays out. The observer will always be part of the action, and influences the outcome, even if the only action the observer undertakes, is to purely ‘observe’. Two simple experiments that prove this axiom are –

On the macro-level [a] ‘The Hawthorne Effect’ and at the quantum-level [b] ‘The Double Slit Experiment’.

When you distill our current situation of over-population, resource depletion, coupled to [a] the logical failure of the ‘growth engine’ [to keep capitalism sustaining ‘our way of life’] and [b] the failure to understand ‘human nature’ that makes communist / socialist systems unworkable – then the view of the future is bleak, very bleak.

When you consider the nature of reality, and our possible futures, the following scenarios come into play -

Future [1] Becoming ‘more than human’
We see technological convergence creating faster and faster innovation which will lead to a technological singularity and a post-human future. In this scenario we will augment our bodies / minds with technology, and become ‘more than human’. This has started.

Click Here to understand and prepare for this future, but our rapidly depleting oil reserves may prevent this future from happening. We have less than ten years to become post-human, otherwise it will be too late as we slide down the oil curve.

Future [2] Economic Collapse
You should view this video ‘Oil, Smoke and Mirrors’ which was released in 2006 and explains that we have now reached a global ‘peak oil’ situation, and that under-pinning all the global economic problems, global wars, terrorism, famines etc lies the ‘elephant in the room’ – the world has reached the peak on the curve of oil production vs. demand. ‘Collapse’ featuring Michael Ruppert is worth watching as is Oil Crash : A Crude Awakening, but be warned these films are terrifying. We have ten years of troubling problems while we bump along the peak, then the slide starts at the end of the decade, and then it will be really ‘interesting’.

Future [3] Extinction Event
Reading Sir Martin Rees’ book ‘Our Final Century’ [aka ‘Our Final Hour’ in US] will explain this threat rationally, and also answer the question posed by the Fermi Equation or the paradox of “why is the universe eerily silent?” Because there is an inevitability in the evolution of life, in that it will naturally lead to a civilization destroying itself by its own hand, or the hand of nature be it viruses, meteorite impact, solar storm, or the sun’s light being blocked by ash. The life-span of an intelligent civilization from inception to collapse is a blink of an eye, when placed against the eons of time that the universe exists within.

Future [4] Simulated Reality
Many people believe that we are living in a ‘simulation’, or experiencing a holographic projection sent from an Event Horizon [the edge of a black hole], or just one plane of reality from an infinite multiverse. In these scenarios, we are still at risk of the previous possible futures, because the brain can not differentiate between ‘reality’ and ‘simulation’, as many think both these terms are the same in terms of practicality. Even if we are in a hologram, or a simulated reality, the fact is that we’re running out of oil [even if it is simulated into an artificial reality].

So does the future feature rollerskates?

Personally I feel that the real [no longer existential] threat is closer than we think and is posed by a pincer movement of ‘oil depletion’ coupled to the darker side of ‘human nature’. To this end, my memory took me back to the 1970’s and an interesting film called ‘Rollerball’ starring James Caan, which prompted this article.

William Harrison wrote the novella / short story ‘Roller Ball Murder’ which first appeared in 1973 in Esquire Magazine. It was first filmed in 1975 by Director Norman Jewison and scripted by William Harrison and was a critical and commercial success, set in a troubled 2018. I won’t mention the 2002 version as that was an embarrassing and shoddy remake [that had none of the political and philosophical dimensions that made the original story and film so interesting].

I’m not the only one who has noticed the portents that Rollerball raises -

Last week saw a couple of events which highlighted how cynical we have become towards Government. The 9th anniversary of 9/11 and the publication of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's autobiography. In his book Blair defends his reasons for committing Britain to the War In Iraq, yet a lot of the British public still think him a war criminal. Of course, the reason for the invasion, a supposed defense against WMD was never substantiated. Likewise, it seems an increasing amount of people are questioning the official version of events on 9/11. The invasion of Iraq has given people enough reason to doubt what they are being told and it has led to a general disenchantment of politics and old political systems. There is an air of conspiracy in these times we live in. We no longer seem to trust authority.

Rollerball, set in a not too distant future, pictures a cold society that is run and controlled by corporate companies. Imagine if you will Fox News Corporation governing our lives (not too hard to imagine). The corporations in Rollerball supply all the news, control all the information and tell us how to live and think. Jonathan E (James Caan) is a hero to the people as he is the star athlete of the ultra-violent Corporation controlled sport Rollerball, a cross between American Football, Rally Cross and Basketball. The Corporation have asked Jonathan E to retire from the sport as they see him as becoming too powerful and of setting too an individualistic example. Jonathan E refuses to retire from the sport leading to direct confrontation with The Corporation.

Read More

I would suggest you re-watch Norman Jewison’s 1975 ‘Rollerball’. It was spawned with a cynical eye amid a slew of other films [from that era] with conspiratorial themes in mind, such as ‘Winter Kills’, ‘The Parallax View’, ‘All The President’s Men’. Now close to 30 years on, the dark-side of human nature has not changed, but what is frightening is that were speedily running out of oil, and that readers, is the real game changer to our reality.
Intead of looking at solutions, because there are none, despite what you hear about electric cars and ethanol - our media will continue to distract the populace from this looming catastrophe, by feeding us inane stories about z-list celebrities, and reality TV as they calmly rearrange the deck-chairs as the ship’s angle starts to tilt down the slope, and all the while the bands will play on.
Our libraries and bookstores are closing making reading, and therefore ‘informed thinking’ rarer. Coupled to time constraints we all face, we haven’t the time / energy or ability to question, to debate, so we will accept what the mainstream media feed us. People are getting anxious about their jobs, xenophobia, terrorism and what Jordan is wearing so the elites in control, can plan for the chaos that will ensue with the era of ‘no oil’.

Then again I am an observer, and therefore part of the situation that is playing out around me, and so I’m contemplating taking roller-skating lessons.

So should you.

Enjoy the weekend, but start to really observe the reality you see around you. Do not accept what you are feed by the mainstream media. Even if you feel powerless when viewing the impending catastrophe coming [when the oil barrels run dry] - remember the begining of this article, the observer plays a part in the situation as it unfolds, so open your eyes and observe.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shots Ring Out!

With the closure of so many bookstores in the UK and US, pressure on the library systems and a general two-pincer attack from the ‘economy’ and ‘new technology’, publishing is having a very rough time.

The loss of libraries and bricks-and-mortar bookstores will make it harder for authors and publishers to get their works noticed by the public. This will have a terrible effect on literacy, something that worries me as reading helps people ‘think’ and remain informed.

I am therefore very pleased at the hard work, my friend and Shots Editor Mike Stotter with the whole Shots Team have been undertaking, re-vamping the Shots Ezine website. I have particular admiration for our webmasters, Tony ‘Grog’ Roberts, Gary Cane and newcomer Richard Orchard for their hard-work migrating the vast archives to the ‘new site’ and their continual updating.

Shots Blog incidentally is rated No #5 in the top Mystery / Thriller Blogs by Best Colleges Online, special thanks goes to the hard working Ayo Onatade for her continual updates, helping Mike and I out, and keeping you all posted on crime & thriller news.

If you’ve not been to Shots Ezine for a while, it’s worth a click of the mouse, to read the regular columnists Mike Ripley, Peter Guttridge, Mike Carlson, Robin Jarossi and the army of contributors that make the site so exciting.

If you are interested in contributing, or perhaps interested in advertising contact Mike Stotter in the first instance by email : and if you have a news story for our social network coordinator, email Ayo at

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

No Longer a Secret

The more books you read, the more films you watch, the harder it is to discover something really fresh, new and exciting. It’s been a while since a film really ‘blew my socks off’, or made me ‘think deeply’. Last night I had the privilege to sit transfixed watching a film that had me hypnotized, paralyzed and made the synapses in my brain spark away like microscopic welding torches. Most importantly it made me think about life and existence, and when the credits rolled - I sat in silence, contemplating the significance of what I had just seen.

Just released on DVD in the UK, this film beat Jacques Audiard’s French prison drama ‘A Prophet’ [Un prophète] for last years Best Foreign Film Oscar. The film I am talking about is of course Juan José Campanella 2009 Argentine crime thriller ‘The Secret in Their Eyes’ (El secreto de sus ojos) based on Eduardo Sacheri's novel La Pregunta de Sus Ojos (The Question in Their Eyes).

I can not recommend this film highly enough, as it is deeply disturbing, moving, complex, multi-layered and existential in themes, which include how can we live a life when there are passions / deeds unfulfilled? And what price do we pay for these deeds done, and those not done, and what exactly is price of fixing these unfulfilled passions and deeds. As worthy as all this sounds, ‘The Secrets in Their Eyes’ is a film that makes you question your own life; and look at the ‘nodes’ and ‘junctions’ that it contains. When we reflect over our lives, we often find times and situations that defined who we are. The film allows reflection upon the randomness of existence [as well as the cruelty of circumstance] without slipping into the arms of madness. I really don’t want to say anymore as the plot has so many twists and revelations, it is a delight to see the narrative unfold toward a jaw-dropping climax[s].

If you like your films cerebral, existentialist in theme and that stay embedded in your mind like slivers of jagged glass, then watch ‘The Secrets in Their Eyes’, [even if you dislike reading subtitles].

Here’s the trailer –

And here’s word from the British Critics

Philip French in The Observer -

There is usually, and often with justification, serious criticism of the movie voted by the American Film Academy to receive its Oscar for best film in a foreign language. It happened again this year when the international critics' anointed contenders – Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon and Jacques Audiard's A Prophet – were ignored in favour of Juan José Campanella's The Secret in Their Eyes. Well, Haneke's picture is certainly more original and Audiard's altogether harsher, but Campanella's Argentinian thriller is a film of subtlety, distinction and depth that in most other years would have made it appear a very worthy recipient. Moreover, it seems an apt choice to mark what Sight & Sound celebrates on the front page of its September edition as "The Rise and Rise of Latin American Cinema" over the past decade.

The film's subject is the obsessive pursuit of a brutal murder long after its significance has faded into the past, a theme familiar from movies as different as Anatole Litvak's The Night of the Generals and Sean Penn's The Pledge, both based on bestselling European novels. In this instance, the crime is the rape and murder of a pretty schoolteacher recently married to a young bank clerk in Argentina in 1974 when the country was on the brink of its dirty war and dictatorship.

Geoffrey Macnab in The Independent

Admirers of Michael Haneke's masterpiece The White Ribbon are likely to hold a small grudge against Juan José Campanella's The Secret in Their Eyes.
After all, Campanella denied Haneke the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film earlier this year. A few months on, that still seems a very perverse decision. However, film-making isn't a competitive sport. The Secret in Their Eyes is a fine film in its own right and deserves to be regarded as more than just the movie that spoiled Haneke's Oscar night.

The appeal of The Secret in Their Eyes lies in its lithe and mysterious quality. It deliberately blurs genre lines and storytelling styles. This is a murder mystery. It is also a love story, a drama about memory and bad faith and even, in an oblique way, a political allegory about 1970s Argentina. Adapted from the novel by Eduardo Sacheri, the film is primarily set in 1974 Buenos Aires, but with flashforwards to the present day and flashbacks.

Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian

At this year's Oscar ceremony, film critics congratulated themselves generously for having praised the triumphant Iraq drama The Hurt Locker, thus justifying our continued existence in the face of a million bloggers. Then we compounded the conceit by grumbling that the best foreign picture prize had not gone to either of the press favourites – Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon or Jacques Audiard's A Prophet – but to Juan José Campanella's little-known Argentinian noir thriller El Secreto de Sus Ojos, or The Secret in Their Eyes. I am ashamed to recall that I, too, joined in with the general air of dismissive bemusement, without having yet seen the film, an omission now rectified.

The Secret in Her Eyes isn't, in fact, as good as either The White Ribbon or A Prophet, but it is a supremely watchable, well-made and well-acted movie with a dark, sinewy sense of history: a tremendously slick thriller from a director who has worked on American TV shows such as Law and Order and House. His movie may in fact be rather closer to boxset-quality television drama than cinema. But respect has to be paid right away to Campanella's most delirious big-screen flourish: an unbroken travelling shot that begins soaring over a football stadium during an evening match, swooping down into the stands where a suspected felon is being sought, tensely following him into the lavatories and then out on to the field itself, bringing play to a halt. It looks like a mix of CGI and a colossal real-world crowd scene, with the join cleverly concealed.

I would state for the record, ‘The Secret In Their Eyes’ to join my personal list of top crime thrillers, because it is wonderful, but a warning – like does open with a very disturbing crime.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Golden Balls

Love him or hate him, Ricky Gervais certainly skated close to the edge at The Golden Globes, proving he must have balls of steel.

Before the jokes fly



Where’s the table to crawl under

Read more on how Gervais is doing his bit for Anglo-American relations

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Life Goes On

Happy New Year!

Last night while stuck in a traffic jam for a frustrating 2 hours, making a four hour road trip turn into 6 hours at the wheel; I discovered a song on BBC2’s Mark Radcliffe and Stuart Maconie Show that I just could not get out of my head. It was one of their weekly ‘picks’, and I only caught the tail-end of it, but man, I just could not get the song's lyrics out of my mind as it bounced around inside like an echo. The problem was I missed who the band was, catching only the tail-end.
But it left its mark in my mind like a cattle brand.

Then tonight, thanks to the internet I tracked it down, as Noah & The Whale - L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N. a band I’d never heard of before, but that song is so wonderful, and due out in March on their Album ‘Last Night on Earth’ - their 3rd album

Wonderful lyrics that resonate in me, and prove the power of words with existential abandon in a world turning more crazy by the day.

Life Affirming -

L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N (Life Goes On) © Noah and the Whale

Lisa likes brandy and the way it hits her lips
She's a rock 'n' roll survivor with pendulum hips
She's got deep brown eyes
That've seen it all
Working at a nightclub that was called The Avenue
The bar men used to call her "Little Lisa, Loney Tunes"
She went on almost anyone
From the hard time living 'til the Chelsea days
From when her hair was sweet blonde 'til the day it turned gray
She said :

You've got more than money and sense, my friend
You've got heart and you go in your own way
What you don't have now will come back again
You've got heart and you go in your own way
Some people wear their history like a map on their face

And Joey was an artist just living out of case
But his best word was his letters home
His standard works of fiction about imaginary success
The chorus girls in neon were his closest things to friends
But to a writer, the truth is no big deal
From the hard time living to the sleepless nights
And the black and blue body from the weekend fights
He'd say :

You've got more than money and sense, my friend
You've got heart and you go in your own way
What you don't have now will come back again
You've got heart and you go in your own way
BridgeOn my last night on earth, I won't look to the sky
Just breathe in the air and blink in the light
On my last night on earth, I'll pay a high price
To have no regrets and be done with my life

You've got more than money and sense, my friend
You've got heart and you go in your own way
What you don't have now will come back again
You've got heart and you go in your own way(repeat)