Tony Black

Not the Booker Prize: The Last Tiger

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Jul 292014
 
After clawing its way up the charts, The Last Tiger (see what I did there?) has now found itself onto the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize longlist.

This is a great result for all at Cargo Publishing, especially my publisher, Mark Buckland, who has done an outstanding job getting the book noticed.

Voting is causing a wee bit of confusion for some folk, but it's a simple enough affair, really.

Here's how to vote:

1) Go to the Guardian page for the Not the Booker Prize.

2) Scroll down to the comments section, and state your vote, with a few words about why you've made that choice. You can list a second choice too, in the same fashion.

3) If you're not already registered with the Guardian to leave comments, then, at the same point on the page - just before the comments section - go to this bit:

Open for comments. or create your Guardian account to join the discussion. 

You'll have to give your email address and a username, but that's it. I've been registered for years and never had any spam so no need to worry.

Simples.

To all of you who have voted already, my huge thanks, it really means a great deal to see so many of you speaking up for The Last Tiger. Much appreciated, folks!

:: As part of Amazon's Summer Sale The Last Tiger is still only £0.99 right now.

Eerie final footage of The Last Tiger

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Jul 282014
 



:: For a limited time only, THE LAST TIGER, is available as part of Amazon's Summer Sale at the low price of £0.99.

"The Last Tiger presents the reader with a unique storyline that takes historical fiction to a new dimension."
                                 -Col Bailey, author of Shadow of the Thylacine

The irregular Friday round-up

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Jul 252014
 
The Ringer in paperback, out now, price: £4.99
Yes, it's Friday, and that means ... well, asking myself if I can be bothered to post the week's main book-related shenanigans.

Rejoice, people, because I can!

THE RINGER - featuring my most crazy anti-hero to date - has hit the proper book shelves. Yes, that's right. You can now buy a copy of THE RINGER in pristine paperback - and a very nice piece of paper it is too - for the meagre sum of £4.99 or the equivalent currency of your choice.



In the coming days/weeks HARD TRUTHS will be the next cab of the paper ranks; I'll keep you posted, and there's more to come.

Some other recent releases have been clocking up very nice reviews of late. THE LAST TIGER, especially, has been roaring up the charts. (Oh, dear). Gaining on the Brown stuff, and becoming my all-time best-seller thanks to an Amazon 99p Summer Sale promo.

My fav review so far for this title has to be from Liz Loves Books:


"What an absolutely amazing and fascinating tale this was – beautifully written, absolutely captivating and with an emotional resonance that will stick with me forever." -Liz Loves Books



ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD, my new Ayr-set crime novel has also been picking up some very nice reviews, with the Daily Record calling it:


"Dark. Relentless. Harrowing. Set in the shadows of evil, it's a gripping tome that's as chilling as the waves that lap Ayr's shore in the dead of night." -Daily Record



Then Shortlist took up the baton:

"A world full of emotion, mystery and suspense. Twisty crime fiction at its best." -Shortlist 

Last but not least, the Commonwealth Games kicked off in Scotland, so it seemed like the ideal time for me to kick off in The Ayrshire Post. 

I also had a dig at the state of one particular carpark in Ayr and praised our wonderful library and staff at Carnegie in Ayr. 

Libraries in the UK are still under tremendous pressure from the short-sighted Tory cuts that are being foisted on them in the name of austerity measures; here's hoping that Carnegie and many others can weather this storm.


Jul 242014
 
By Ryan Bracha

Twelve Mad Men is the story of a night guard’s first shift at St David’s asylum for the criminally insane. Throughout the shift he meets the staff and residents there, and before long it soon becomes apparent that there’s something very wrong in the water. It is made up of several stories written by some of the finest indie talent on offer, and woven into the narrative by me, Ryan Bracha.

Lanarkshire-born wordsmith Mark Wilson probably hates me when I’m a bit tipsy. He probably hates me full stop. On Saturday nights, when the wife has gone to bed just around Match of the Day, or The Football League Show comes on, I get on the long bit of the corner sofa, with a beer in one hand, and my phone in the other. From this position, I scroll through Facebook contacts, find the bald bastard, and I hurl abuse (wrapped in the safe word of banter!) at his little bald head. In between this ‘banter’, we discuss books. We talk about other writers; who we admire, who’s doing something cool with their stuff, and who’s an absolute clown. It’s about these times that I come up with my best ideas. They start as throwaway comments about what it’d be cool to do, or what character I’d like to introduce into a book, or what I want to do to try to stand out from the crowd. Some of them are forgotten as quickly as they dribbled out of my brain, but others are left to fester upstairs. Whilst up there, they grow a fine layer of fuzzy mould, and begin to take on a life of their own. Twelve Mad Men was one of those ideas.

I wanted to write a set of rules that I would write a novel by, and I would beg a bunch of authors to get involved in the making of it. The set of rules eventually became what I have termed ‘The Rule of Twelve Manifesto 2014,’ which required twelve very loose guidelines to write a book by, for example it had to feature twelve different writers, all invited to participate by the lead writer. Or each story had to be so many words long. Or that the project would cost nothing but time, the writers between them must use the skills between them to make the project work, and for free. That kind of thing. I wanted it to be a literary equivalent of the Dogme 95 cinematic movement, led by Lars Von Trier.

So I began to ask around the writers whose work I’d discovered in my first eighteen months in the literary game. Gerard Brennan, whose work I adore. Keith Nixon and Mark Wilson, my original and best pals on the indie scene, they taught me at least 63% of what I know now. Paul Brazill, whose descriptive prose makes me sick with envy. The writer of my favourite book of 2013, Craig Furchtenicht. Lord of despair and darkness Allen Miles. Darren Sant because of his gritty urban collections. And Martin Stanley, the hard-boiled master. They all said yes, without hesitation. It blew my mind. From here I asked for suggestions, and Christ, I snagged the legendary Les Edgerton, the twisted fuck that is Richard Godwin, and the king of short, sharp fiction, Gareth Spark.

Once I’d got them, I told them what I wanted. The brief was pretty much simply this: I’m going to narrate the story from the point of view of a night guard on his first shift at St David’s asylum for the criminally insane.  Along this shift he’s going to meet fictional version of you. I want you to write me a story about your spiral into madness, and what acts led you to be incarcerated at St David’s. No more than six thousand words. I would improvise and react to the stories submitted, and this would shape how the book went. The stories came in and they blew me away. They were funny, dark, violent, sweary, intelligent, disgusting, witty and above all, brilliant. Everybody who’s read it so far has said something like ‘That Richard Godwin, he’s a damaged fuck, eh?’ and that’s what I wanted. I was sick of seeing the charts filled to the brim with rip-offs of the last big thing. I wanted to put a book out that had got some real balls, one that would make a reader admire the ambition that lay within, and I think I invited possibly the most perfect eleven to make it so. I wanted these guys to let loose. Take themselves out of their comfort zones, and simply go nuts, pun intended. They made me up my own game in response to the sheer brilliance of what they were sending me. They made me push harder to make the narrative of the book stand up alongside the stories included therein. They did me proud, each and every one of them.

For me, the highlight of the whole process was all of it. I’ve got to know some really cool fellas, and I’ve put out a work that I think they can all be proud of. The next project is already up in the mental attic gathering the mould it needs to come alive, and I’d be happy to have any one of them back for round two.



Ryan Bracha is the Yorkshire born best-selling author of several works of fiction, including Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed yet, Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, and Paul Carter is a Dead Man. His latest work, a novel of stories entitled Twelve Mad Men, is a ground breaking literary collaboration with some of the most talented Brit Grit and American talent currently working today. He lives in Barnsley with his wife, two cats, and their as-yet unborn, and unnamed, daughter.

:: Buy Twelve Mad Men on Amazon now.

Tiger trapper caught on film

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Jul 212014
 
Anyone who looks into the history of the Tasmanian tiger will tell you that the real experts were the old trappers. Turk Porteous - who features in this video - knew more about the nature of thylacines in the bush than any university professor, simply because he observed them at first hand. In his acclaimed book, Tiger Tales, Col Bailey talks about his experiences of dealing with the old bushmen and trappers of Tasmania, how they observed the tigers in their natural habitat, and comes to precisely the same conclusion. That there are no 'real experts' these days, because they have all died out, those bushmen with the experience to say they knew and understood the tigers.



:: For a limited time only, THE LAST TIGER, is available as part of Amazon's Summer Sale at the low price of £0.99.

"The Last Tiger presents the reader with a unique storyline that takes historical fiction to a new dimension."
                                 -Col Bailey, author of Shadow of the Thylacine
 

Launch week reviews for Artefacts of the Dead

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Jul 182014
 
It's only been out a week or so but my new crime novel is racking up some very pretty reviews.

It's an interesting one, Artefacts, a kind of existential thriller about a cop who has come back from the brink of death and starts to re-evaluate whether life is worth living. I once heard the answer to that question was 'it depends on the liver' but Bob Valentine will have to work that out for himself.

If you'd like to find out a little more about Artefacts, and its setting in the heart of Burns Country - the lovely town of Ayr - then I wrote a piece earlier in the week for Shots Mag about just that topic.

Meanwhile, over at Liz Loves Books, Artefacts was declared "another massive page turner of the highest order". Liz went on to declare Artefacts "absolutely superb" and how can I argue with that? I think I'll just drop in a chunk of her review and shut up now:

"This author never fails to remind me why I love Crime Fiction so much – the characters pretty much pop off the page, the fine line between dramatic license and realism is walked to perfection and whilst often violent and unrelenting there is also a finesse to it that means it is enough yet not too much."

Heather McD also reviewed over at her blog, calling it a "solid mystery" with "characters that stand out from the page". She went on too, and I wasn't gonna stop her:

"Solid story, great characters, and a great writing style!"

The Crime Thriller Fella declared me an old hand at putting characters under intense strain - hey, less of the old, mate! He did seem to enjoy his time with DI Bob Valentine, though, and he's bang on the money when he says that Artefacts is "part procedural, part existential reflection by a man who has been given a second chance at life – and isn’t sure if it’s worth having".

Again, he elaborated:

"We could all learn a thing or two from Tony Black on how to crank up the pressure to eleven on our beloved characters."

I did a little Q&A with the Crime Thriller Fella this week too, where I talk about the creative cistern needing filling, among other scatological insights.

Finally, Killing Time Crime took a shuftie at Artefacts of the Dead and found plenty to praise about the characterisation of DI Bob Valentine, before stating:

"It’s also a good crime novel, and the plot more than holds its own. Black is also very good on social commentary, and the book is peppered with neat observations."

And on that note, it seems appropriate to tell you that Artefacts of the Dead is available from Black & White publishing, in all good bookstores, and on Amazon

:: My other Black & White title, His Father's Son, is currently part of the Amazon Summer Sale, available for £0.99 for a limited time only.
Jul 172014
 
Keith Nixon

Take two writers. Put them in one room (kinda, a cyber room in this instance) and let them share experiences - the results are always interesting. No two authors approach the work, the industry or the route to success in the same way. In the case of Keith Nixon, an indie writer who took the route to traditional publishing, everything seems to have worked out fine. The same can also be said of Doug Jackson, a gifted and successful author in more than one genre, who started his career with a dream deal from Transworld. Pulp Pusher decided to introduce the two of them, to hear how their experiences differed, and to get the run-down on new books from both men ... in traditional and digital formats.



Keith: You’ve a series of Roman historical fiction novels with a character called Gaius Valerius Verrens. Who is he?

Douglas Jackson

Doug: The Gaius Valerius Verrens series opens with Hero of Rome, when a 22-year-old Valerius is fighting his father's demands to return to Rome to resume his career in the law. Valerius wants to stay in Britannia with the XXth legion and join the campaign against the Druids on Mona, but filial duty means he can't refuse. Events, however, delay his departure and he's drawn into the fight to stop the rebel queen Boudicca, commanding a forlorn hope of two hundred odds and sods sent to reinforce Camulodunum (modern Colchester). The centrepiece of the book is the defence of Camulodunum against Boudicca's hordes, by the local militia, a Dad's Army of retired legionaries, and the last stand in the Temple of Claudius, which I think of as Rome's Alamo. The wonderful thing for me is how Valerius develops as a character over the following books; scarred by his past, a good man forced to fight and to kill to protect what he loves.


Keith: And Sword of Rome, the recently published fourth outing for Verrens?

Doug: It covers the opening months of the Year of the Four Emperors, the bloody civil war that cost tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of lives and brought the Empire to the brink of ruin. As it opens, Valerius is on a mission for Servius Sulpicius Galba, accompanied by Marcus Salvius Otho, who will in a few short months be Galba's murderer. With his links to Aulus Vitellius and Vespasian, our hero finds himself uniquely placed to affect events and the protagonists take advantage. After a perilous journey across Europe hunted by the most implacable enemy he has ever faced, Valerius finds himself at the heart of the first Battle of Bedriacum, the bloody confrontation in the Po Valley that will decide the fate of the Empire.

The paperback of Sword of Rome is out in July, and the follow-up, Enemy of Rome, is published on August 28. Once more Bedriacum is the focus of the war, and Valerius joins the army of Vespasian in the campaign to oust his old friend Vitellius from the throne. When Vespasian's commander needs someone to negotiate the surrender of Rome there's only one man for the job. Once more he must put his head into the lion's mouth, but there are dark powers at work and when he discovers that Vitellius is no longer the master of his destiny, only one man stands between the city and its destruction.

Doug: I know you also write books on the Roman period. What's the subject and how did you get your inspiration?

Keith: Even though my first published work was crime (The Fix) I actually started with historical fiction. I felt I needed an event to write around to get me started. I went to Maiden Castle, the largest iron age fort in Europe, and read about how the Romans had sacked it. Quite an achievement given the size. So I started to dig into Roman history and realized that the invasion of AD43 started a few miles away from where I lived. I became intrigued by Caradoc, a British general who resisted the Romans for nearly a decade and now a largely forgotten military leader in history. After two years of many rewrites The Eagle’s Shadow was the result.
 

You've had a successful career over the last few years, Doug, how did you come to be published?


Doug: By quite an interesting route, actually. I'd completed The Emperor's Elephant and knew it was pretty good, but not quite good enough. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to go about starting a rewrite. A few weeks later I stumbled on an English Arts Council website called Youwriteon.com where you uploaded the first 10,000 words of your book and other people critiqued it, using a points system. To get critiques, you also had to critique other people's books. At first it was a chore, but very quickly I realised that by looking for flaws in other people's writing, it also gave me an insight into my own, and gradually I began to look at the book in a different way. I uploaded a second, improved version and won a book of the month award, which entitled me to a critique by a publishing professional. My beginning ended up with Sarah O'Keefe at Orion books, who specialised in historical novels. I knew she'd like it, and she did. She asked to see the rest of the book and I thought I had it made. I got a phone call a couple of week's later along the lines of 'We were going to offer you a deal , but ...' The but was that they wanted to focus on the first third of the book, which was based around intrigue in the palace of the Emperor Caligula. I could have said no, because there was no guarantee of a deal at the end of it, but I realised that if I could achieve this I'd have taken another step forward as a writer. I worked on it for three months and found an agent on the strength of her interest. He liked the result so much that he insisted on putting it out to seven mainstream publishers. Two or three were interested and one came back offering a pre-empt deal, which is an offer design dot scare off the opposition. I was on my way.

Keith: I see you've recently ventured into the crime genre with War Games, why the shift from historicals?

Doug: It was really a question of having a perfectly good book and wanting to see it published. When I finished my first novel (it became Caligula, but I didn't then have publisher) I had no idea what to do next, but I'd enjoyed it so much it seemed a pity not to write another. I could write a historical novel, but why not try something different? What came next was a crime novel written in the first person because the main character started talking to me in my sleep in a kind of Fifties Noir Sam Spade voiceover kind of way. The hero is a Falklands War veteran who returns home semi-traumatised, but with a gift that he thought he'd lost long ago. Glen Savage is a psychic, the last resort the cops call on after all the other last resorts have struck out. In War Games he's investigating the possible abduction of a young Asian girl when he finds himself crossing swords - almost literally - with a serial killer who thinks he's still fighting a war that ended seven hundred years ago. The action takes place in the Borders, my old stamping ground, and when I was writing it I wanted to make the place a character, in the way James Lee Burke does with New Orleans.

Keith: And War Games is self-published, how's that experience been for you?


Doug: I knew my agent was unlikely to convince my publisher to take War Games, and a second Glen Savage novel I had, because I was already writing parallel series for them (Valerius and the Jamie Saintclair series - as James Douglas - which blends contemporary action with historical mysteries). It's possible I could have found another publisher, but that would have been a scheduling nightmare. Eventually, after discussing it with my agent, he agreed to support it as a self-publishing project. If I'm being honest, I'm a little disappointed with the impact it's made so far. I priced it low and expected to get quite a few takers, especially among Douglas Jackson fans, but after a not bad first week it faded away. I guess I still have a lot to learn. I was very fortunate in getting some great advice on the technical side of Kindle from Simon Turney, who also writes Roman-era fiction, and is a real self-publishing phenomenon, but I haven't managed to turn the book into a paperback yet. I have a feeling that would add to the credibility. I also think that it helps a lot to have several books out with the same character, to get a bit of cross-pollination.

We're quite similar in that we write in different genres, Keith. Do you find it difficult to jump from one mindset to the other; from the past to the present and vice versa?


Keith: I guess so far I haven’t had to jump around between genres. The sequel to Eagle’s Shadow I started and put on hold about five years ago. I’ve another crime novel in process now, once that’s done I’ll jump back to historical. I suspect getting into the mindset of writing about two thousand year old events, versus modern-day crime, will be interesting! I do feel I’ve got to finish one, create a separation and then start in the other genre…

Can you expand on your experiences in self- and traditional publishing, Doug? There's an ongoing debate about which is best.

Doug: I don't think there's a best or a worst, they both have their good points and their downsides. The one thing that unites them is that you have to be very fortunate as well as very good to make any kind of breakthrough. A welcome upside of traditional publishing is that you get an advance, so you have some money to bankroll your efforts, which is particularly important when you write full time as I do. On the other hand what sounds like a big advance isn't quite as good as it sounds. For instance, an advance for a three book deal will be delivered in ten smaller increments over four years, so even the much trumpeted six figure advance will give you an average income of £25k, minus tax and your agent's cut, which isn't really much to shout about. And that advance has to be repaid by book sales. My last royalty statement averaged about 40p a book, paid three months in arrears every six months, so unless your sales are pretty enormous you'll take a long time to earn out a decent advance. Self-publishing at least has the potential to provide a monthly income if your book sells, and the Amazon royalty rate of 70 per cent for books priced £1.99 and over is a fair rate of return. It means your books can be keenly priced, which should generate more sales, and you still get a fair return. Of course, the downside of that is that everyone then thinks they should get all their books for next to nothing.

Keith: Yes, that’s a good point. There’s definitely a view with many readers that e-books must be low priced or even free.

Doug: It goes without saying that you have to sell books to make money in both self and traditional publishing. As a budding author you dream of seeing your name up in lights, posters at the station and your books in enormous piles in Waterstones and WH Smith. The reality is that even with a large mainstream publisher that will only happen if you become a best-seller. Of course, the most likely way to become a best-seller is to have your name up in lights, posters in the station ... you get the picture. If a traditional publisher decides to put their full resources behind you, you have a chance, but you only get one bite at the cherry and mostly they keep the big money for the big names. In my limited experience self-publishing can be equally frustrating. You've written a good book, you've put it out there on Kindle, you've asked your mates on Twitter and Facebook to tell the world, and then what? It either sells or it doesn't, and if it doesn't I'm not sure there's any guarantee you can change that.

I think the best thing about traditional publishing is that you're part of a team, and for an author who spends most of his life writing alone that can be a real encouragement and comfort. You have an editor who's put his career on the line because he believes in you and whose job it is to get the best out of you. You work with a copy editor, who is normally more expert in your genre than you are - mine have saved me from embarrassment any number of times. You have an enormously professional production team who make your books look stellar, even if they're sometimes not. You have legal oversight, which is important when you're about to defame a world leader as I was not that long ago. And you have professional proofreaders to spot those irritating little mistakes that hid themselves the last twenty times you read the manuscript. After that process you can just about guarantee your book is the best it can possibly be. In self-publishing you have to provide all these services yourself and it's much scarier to put out a book that only you and a few close friends have read.

Keith: Will you be self-publishing again?

Doug: Yes, almost certainly. I have a second Glen Savage novel on the stocks and the (few) people who've read the first one have really enjoyed it. The reality is that most authors will have to write two books a year to make a living. In future I see an author having a career with a traditional publisher, but perhaps dove-tailing it with self-publishing a second series of novels at his own pace and his own price. That will take goodwill on both sides, but I think the industry will eventually work it out.

Doug: What about you Keith? Self-publish or traditional?

Keith: I started as self-publish, then was picked up by Caffeine Nights and lost touch with the DIY process until putting out Eagle’s Shadow six weeks ago. It’s been a learning process all over again and I’ve loved it. Going forward I’ll carry on with both routes. I like the ability to move at pace in self-publish. Like you, Doug, I think there’s room for both. I know some authors who are indie or self-publish forever. I guess time will tell…


:: All the books above by Keith Nixon and Douglas Jackson are available on Amazon. 


Jul 142014
 
Well, that's the World Cup over for another four years and I can already feel the withdrawal symptoms setting in.

It was a fabulous tournament all round, with highlights aplenty.

The shock humbling of the once mighty Spain (a team whose style of play I was never a fan of) seemed to herald a return to a more attacking game all round. Though it was a disappointment Messi and Ronaldo didn't feature more heavily on the score-sheets.

Of those that did, Van Persie's athletic header was a favourite for me. As was the Rodriguez stunner, but my goal of the tourney goes to an Aussie, Tim Cahill, for a volley that was just an incredible piece of skill.

Low points have to be the Brits disappointing showing, of course would like to have seen Scotland there, but in their absence I was backing the England team. The lowest of the low points has to be Suarez's biting incident, shocking beyond belief, but the Uruguay reaction - blaming his actions on an English media conspiracy - was idiotic.

Germany, in the end, were deserved winners - though their keeper should have been red carded for the full-on assault that had eerie echos of Spain 82 when Schumacker recklessly lunged from his six-yard box. Still, great to see the legendary Klose managing to play nearly the whole final and a fitting swansong to see such an outstanding goalscorer go out on a high.

It's the German's 7-1 thrashing of the most disinterested and lacklustre Brazil team I've ever witnessed that will stay with me the most from this World Cup, however. I can't remember watching another match through slitted fingers so much. It was beyond embarrassing. I felt truly uneasy witnessing a side I'd worshipped from boyhood demolished in such fashion. Sad for Brazil, sad for the people who picked up the tab for such an enormously expensive spectacle to be left with those memories.

If, like me you're feeling a little starved of international footy action already then a little distraction might do the trick. Here's another completely idiosyncratic list of football books that I can recommend to while away the hours:

1- Pele: The Autobiography - by Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Does the legendary 'best player of all time' need any introduction? His autobiography has been around for a few years now and it's probably an indication of its quality that the book is still in print. It's a dramatic rags to riches story, littered with all the top names from the top teams, and a fascinating account of his early years in the game right through to the dubious move to Cosmos. There's nice accounts of things like his first bicycle kick and the retelling of the early hopes and dreams of a spirited lover of the beautiful game are priceless.  

2- Blessed - by George Best
The number of books written by, and about, George Best could fill a football stadium but this one is the pick of the crop. Part memoir, part confessional and part autobiographical testimony the book sparkles with Best's wit and wisdom. As quick off the lip as he was on the ball, Best, has an eye for an anecdote and a lovely humorous, self-deprecating way of delivering a tale. All the highlights of the life and loves of El Beatle are there, too, like the time he was asked how many Miss Worlds he'd dated? "Two or three, it would have been more but I stood some of them up!" For me, the greatest player the game has ever produced, blessed beyond belief, indeed.  

3- The Damned United - by David Peace
Forget the Carry On version you've seen on the telly or at the cinema, The Damned United is a damned fine book written by an equally fine writer. If you know British football, then you know it was impossible to ignore Brian Clough. Love him or loath him - and many did, objecting to his blunt-speaking - he was impossible to ignore. His achievements at Nottingham Forrest look like the stuff of fantasy league these days but this book doesn't reach that point in his past. It's his ill-fated time at Leeds, taking over from the dearly-loved Don Revie for a mere 44 days that Peace documents in the kind of warts and all way that only a near Shakespearean character of Clough's stature is fit to fill. 

4- The Lone Rangers - by Tom Maxwell
Edinburgh-writer Maxwell is well-known as the author of the recent football book, The Fabulous Baker Boys, but this earlier book is fast becoming a classic of the genre. As a committed Berwick Rangers fan, Maxwell, knows all about the highs and lows of the lower leagues. Interestingly, Berwick are the only English team to play in the Scottish league, however, and display a fiercely competitive streak, backed by a committed following. The book retells the team's story of the last hundred years, with cameo appearances for a host of household names whose early careers touched on the Lone Rangers. The Jock Wallace episodes are as entertaining a read as I've come across in a footy book, but you can expect similar from the likes of Gordon McQueen, Ally McCoist and Gary Linekar.

5- Scotland '74: A World Cup Story - by Richard Gordon
As a Scotland fan any retelling of our nation's exploits will be beset with mixed emotions. For all the highs, the lows can be heart-crushing. For those of us reveling in the glory days of old when World Cup qualification seemed like a foregone conclusion this book will be meat and drink. All the greats are there: Law, Bremner, a young Kenny Dalglish, Lorimer, and the plug-toothed Jaws, aka Joe Jordan. Forget about Archie Gemmill's exquisite goal in Argentina '78 or David Narey's thunderbolt in Spain '82 (it wisnae a toe-poke) the tournament where it looked like the Scots could do no wrong was West Germany '74. Of course, we did do wrong in the end, it's Scotland we're talking about here, but what a story we had to tell. Thrilling, immersive and packed with the stuff of revelry; and with a very nice foreword by Gordon Strachan as well.

Jul 102014
 
Publishing my second book with an Australian setting, THE LAST TIGER,  (the first was last year's HIS FATHER'S SON) has set me thinking about other books set in the Lucky Country.

A quick scan at my blog stats tells me most of you reading this are in the States and the UK, and only a few are from Oz - so it seems like a good idea to share some of the fruits of the Aussie writing mill with those of you who might not have come across the best and the brightest from Down Under.

So, here's my completely idiosyncratic list of books set in Australia. They're not all by Aussie authors, and there's at least one short story collection in the mix but I'm vouching for the quality of each and every one of them.

1. TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG by Peter Carey. Where do I start with this one from the double Booker-winner. If you know the Ned Kelly story, or even have a passing familiarity with it, then you know it's a ripper of a yarn. Kelly, the son of poor Irish immigrants who were ruthlessly persecuted by the colonial government, took off on a crime spree that makes Dillinger's escapades look like a picnic. Throw in hand-made armour and numerous bank heists along the way and you get the picture. I've read a few of Carey's books and this is without doubt my favourite. An incredibly finely drawn character study of Australia's most infamous bushranger, told in glistening prose. Top class.

2. RED DOG by Louis de Bernieres.
He's more famous for Captain Corelli's Mandolin but Brit, de Berniers's little novel about an errant bush dog that can't stop picking up new owners is a must read slice of modern-day Australiana. De Berniers stumbled across the stories of the legendary Red Dog on a trip Down Under and felt compelled to commit them to print. I'm glad he did. I read this book when I was living in country Australia and it rings totally true to life. A raucous romp through the spinefex and dust of rural Oz that will leave you both laughing and smiling.

3. TIGER TALES by Col Bailey.
Australia's past is fertile ground for many a writer, they were hard times those early frontiersmen and women faced and nowhere fared worse than Tasmania. The small apple-shaped isle at the foot of the continent has a rich and varied history - Ned Kelly's family hailed from there - but perhaps even more interesting is the variety of wildlife, unique anywhere else in the world. Everyone has heard of the Tasmanian devil, but the isle also hosted, or should that be hosts, tigers. Bailey is a world-renowned authority on the Tasmanian tiger, a veteran bush explorer with nearly half-a-century's experience under his belt and a cast-iron belief that the tiger, although officially extinct, still survives. He should know - he's seen it twice. Tiger Tales is Bailey's collection of frontier tales from the time when tigers were plentiful and stalked the lands of the new European settlers. A brilliant, all-encompassing and beautifully told collection that is so all-Australian you'll be shoo-ing flies whilst you read it.

4. THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple.
Crime fiction fans around the work are likely already familiar with Temple's work and the reason for that is his breakthrough novel, The Broken Shore. Essentially a detective yarn it rises above the standard fare in its depictions of a modern vibrant Australia coming to terms with its long journey from convict roots. Temple, a resident of the Victorian town of Ballarat, originally hails from South Africa but writes like a life-long native. The descriptions of the landscape and its inhabitants are crisply told; add in a rattling good crime plot and what more could you ask for from one of the world's most popular genres.

5. FAVOURITE AUSTRALIAN SHORT STORIES - edited by Harry Heseltine.
I'll admit to buying this book on the strength of the cover image - two larakins propping up a bar in a stereotypical Aussie ale house - but the contents were even more appealing. The book spans the country's cities and small towns and is the perfect companion to take on any outback adventure, though if you can't manage a trip Down Under, don't worry because the stories in this collection are so evocative by the end of it you'll feel like you've been there. Some great Aussie writers, contemporary and classic alike, fill the pages: people like, the double-Booker winner we mentioned earlier, Peter Carey, Henry Lawson - the colonial-era legend who is often called Australia's greatest short story writer - and the first Australian Nobel-winner, novelist Patrick White.


:: Discover more about the brightest and the best of Australian literature at Wikipedia.

Artefacts of the Dead is here

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Jul 102014
 
Less than a week to the official launch of my new crime novel ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD but I suspect a few sneaky copies have made their way to bloggers and the media.

You can grab previews at Crime Time and Crime Fiction Lover.

And there's a few reviews up to:

"Tony Black is the new Scottish noir king you need on your bookshelf." -Shortlist

"Beautifully constructed and incredibly difficult to put aside ... Absolutely superb. As always." -Liz Loves Books

"Black's writing is on the button – great characterisation, strong set plays and a pin-sharp commentary on the current lack in society."-Michael Malone, author of The Guillotine Choice


:: Artefacts of the Dead, published by Black and White Publishing is available from Amazon now.