Tony Black

Guest Blog: The Wanderer by Timothy Jarvis

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Sep 102014
 
Timothy Jarvis
by Timothy Jarvis

My book, The Wanderer, was in part conceived as a spiritual successor to Charles Robert Maturin’s 1820 novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, a work which gripped me when I first read it in my mid-twenties. Melmoth is very odd text, which brings, to the violence of the Gothic, a high-Romantic sensibility, but also, and more incongruously, the comical, sceptical, and metatextual mood of Renaissance and Enlightenment satire: Rabelais, Cervantes, Swift, Sterne, and Diderot. I wished to emulate some of Melmoth’s strangeness: its awkward, but potent, blend of tones.

The seeds of The Wanderer were planted much earlier, though, when a childhood love of the Sherlock Holmes stories led me to Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger tales. The 1912 novel, The Lost World, struck a particular chord, and I became obsessed with fantastical colonial romances. But, sometime in my early teens, I realized – to paraphrase McArdle, a newspaper editor in The Lost World – the big blank spaces on the map had all been filled in, that there was no room for romance left anywhere, and also that such imperial adventures belied darker truths. I turned away from them then.

Later in life, I discovered and was captivated by Edgar Allan Poe’s weird novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Its strange story of exploration took me back to the tales I’d loved as a child, and got me wondering where a writer could set an adventure as bizarre as Pym’s in a world in which even the wildest and most desolate places have been explored and tamed, new means of transport and telecommunication technologies have elided distances, and globalized culture has eroded difference. That was when I came up with the central premise of The Wanderer. My solution was a dislocation, not in space, but in time. I made my protagonist immortal and set much of the story in the far-flung future, when civilization has collapsed and history is nearing its close. MP Shiel’s The Purple Cloud was a particular influence on me in thinking about the desolated world I wished to depict. And from Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, ‘The Immortal’, I took a sense of disaffection and amorality in the undying.


Interwoven with the post-civilization strand, is one with a present day setting; the deathless narrator recounting the events of the evening on which he first learnt of his immortality. The portmanteau horror story was a big influence on this. A hint as to the structure came from Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters, while the mundane strangeness of the some of the short fiction of Shirley Jackson and Robert Aickman suggested the tone.

I also wished to present the novel as a found manuscript, to generate a sense it could be something real in the world, that its horror might seep, might bleed out. William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, Caitlín R Kiernan’s The Red Tree, and Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves were touchstones for this.

My attempt, when writing The Wanderer, was to fuse these various influences into a new whole, on the model of Melmoth, a whole that I hope would be both weird and pulpish, a chimera botched from incongruous parts, a Frankenstein’s monster…

There was one more key influence on the novel – eerily, a retrospective one. While editing the book, after completing my first draft, I came across a reference, in Iain Sinclair’s Dining on Stones, to a novel by one Walter Owen, titled, More Things in Heaven… Sinclair’s narrator describes this book as being a sequence of linked narratives about cursed manuscripts, manuscripts that cause readers to spontaneously combust, and warns that it is supposed to be itself cursed, supposed to confer, ‘malfate, paranoid delusions, death…’

Intrigued by a seeming resemblance to The Wanderer and undeterred by Sinclair’s narrator’s claims of malign influence, I ordered up More Things in Heaven… at the British Library. On opening it, I felt an eerie shock. The first line of Owen’s work runs: ‘On the 14th July 1935 Mr Cornelius Letherbotham, an English gentleman resident in Buenos Aires, died under extraordinary and distressing circumstances.’ The first line of The Wanderer was (and is): ‘On the 18th December 2010, Simon Peterkin, a British Library archivist and writer of weird tales with a small, if cultic, following, disappeared from his Highgate flat.’ I read on, gripped by a horrid fascination, and discovered more and more correspondences. Then I began dabbling, working more, this time intentional, allusions to More Things in Heaven… into my novel.


Then, in the block I was living in at the time, there was a bad fire. No one was hurt, but the building was gutted. I stopped tinkering after that.

:: The Wanderer is published by Perfect Edge Books. Find it on Amazon UK

From Dreams to Drivers and the Stark Reality

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Sep 022014
 


By Peter Carroll
I came to writing novels relatively late in life. As a kid I was a book-worm, excelled at English in school, and loved creative writing. But, as I got older, science, rock n roll, alcohol, work and other such delights distracted me. I lost my fascination with literature and never seriously considered being a writer. Then, about four years ago, a friend let me read a novel they’d written. It was really good and we chatted about what had inspired her. She believed lots of ideas for books are lost to people because they don’t write them down when they are struck by that Eureka moment.  I thought she might be right and found my interest in writing re-ignited; an ember of my childhood obsession began to glow.
One Saturday morning in 2010 I awoke at 6am, sun streaming through the curtains, surprised by how alert I was. I didn’t want to get up that early on a weekend and I tried to doze off. It didn’t work. However, as I lay there a scenario began to play out in my head; the interaction between two characters returning from the pub and a pivotal phrase. I remembered what my friend said about ideas and I got up, went downstairs, grabbed a pencil and a notepad, and began to write. At eight-thirty my wife and daughter came down to find me still writing. I’d knocked out about three thousand words. No structure, no plan, no idea where the story was going but I was buzzing. I was up and running as a writer and the ember burst into flames.
Fast forward to 2014 and I’ve had five novels published by a small independent called Raven Crest Books. I mainly write what’s often described as Tartan Noir. I prefer realism; if that means profanity and violence, then so be it. I enjoy taking the places and people I’ve known and exaggerating or embellishing them and, so far, I’ve had a pretty good reaction from readers. 
None of my output has troubled the upper reaches of the Amazon bestseller chart, and I haven’t been able to give up my real job, but it has been a brilliant experience. I write as and when I can fit it in. Sometimes, when work is slow (I’m a self-employed ecologist), I can hammer down great chunks of a book but in (Stark) contrast, when I’m busy with work and chauffeuring my ice-skating daughter about, I might struggle to get much done at all. In any case, my working method is probably more than a little against best practice. I write in bursts, allowing ideas to ping pong back and forward, letting the story evolve organically, adjusting and re-editing as I go when a new idea scuppers an old one. I rarely have a plan or a set structure. My novel Pandora’s Pitbull arose from a single line in my debut novel In Many Ways for instance. I think this is in part a symptom of not being a full-timer and in part a reflection of my personality.
Despite this apparent chaos, as I’ve gone along, I think I’ve become a much better writer. I’ve learned so much by reading others – Tony Black included – and by absorbing as much advice and feedback as I can. My latest novel is called Drivers and I’m really proud of it. It’s a tale of unrequited love and murderous revenge, set in gangland Glasgow. My publisher and I have decided to use it as a shop window to the rest of my work and offer it for free for the foreseeable future, allowing a risk-free introduction to my writing. I hope some of you might give it a go and maybe even spend some of your hard-earned on my other stuff. I’m always grateful when folks do. 
I would like to thank Tony for being so generous to an up and coming rookie and giving me this platform to tell you all a bit about myself. The support and encouragement of fellow authors like him has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this adventure so far. 
And what of the future? Well, I’m currently working on Stark Reality - the third instalment of a police procedural series featuring an Alloa-based cop called Adam Stark. With the flame burning brightly in me again, I intend to keep writing; searching for that elusive key that unlocks the door to big sales. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to give up that day job. 

:: You can find Peter at the following web hang-outs:  Website    Twitter    Facebook 
Aug 292014
 
I might have missed a Friday, or two, of round-ups but I think the 'irregular' bit covers me for that. So, without further blather, here's the, er, blather ...

The Last Tiger, shortlisted  for Not the Booker.
That newspaper of note, The Guardian still has The Last Tiger shortlisted for its Not the Booker prize at the moment and the latest step in the judging process is a very level-headed review from Sam Jordison. There's four more shortlisted books to be reviewed - all the very best of luck to the authors and their publishers - and readers can enter the debate via the comments box for the reviews during that time.

The Last Tiger continues to rack up the reviews - breaking the 20 five-star reviews mark on Amazon recently - and landing some very nice plaudits from the folks at Upcoming4.me.

"Poetically written, The Last Tiger is likely to make you very sad and melancholic but sometimes those books are the best kind there is. Black speaks about important things and through the tale of the final throes of this wild but wonderful species, he actually talks about humanity itself and the need to accept the very things we don't really understand." 

In the coming weeks I'll be talking about The Last Tiger - and other things - to students at Edinburgh Uni and I'll be doing a Hunting the Last Tiger event in Elgin.
Meanwhile Artefacts of the Dead, my new Ayr-set crime novel has been featured in the Cumnock Chronicle, where the origins of DI Bob Valentine get an airing for the first time. The book also picks up some very nice reviews at Undiscovered Scotland and Crime Review.

The Undiscovered Scotland reviewer pointed out I wasn't making too many friends at the Ayrshire Tourist board, and is probably right. But I liked this bit best: 

"Artefacts of the Dead is Tony Black's latest venture into Tartan Noir and deeply noir it is too… The result is a thoroughly enjoyable read that keeps you guessing right to the end."

Crime Review called Artefacts a "superbly told tale" and added that it: "treads the fine line between dramatic license and realism with a sure-footedness close to perfection with often unrelenting violence finessed by surprising emotion and compassion."

Hard Truths is out now in paperback.
In other news my compilation of crime writer interviews - Hard Truths - has now made its way into paperback.

This series was something of a labour of love, spanning about five years' worth of interviews with the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Andrew Vachss. The interviews cover a host of topics from the writing process to more personal anecdotes and featured in a number of newspapers, magazines and on my own, now defunct website, Pulp Pusher.


You can catch an edited version of my interview with the legendary Godfather of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney on YouTube now. 




 

Tasmanian tiger extinction doco

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Aug 222014
 
There's a lot of footage on YouTube about the Tasmanian tiger and its 'extinction' but most of it is pretty dire stuff. This is a detailed and well put-together account of the animal's demise and although it runs on a bit is worth the watch if you're keen to broaden your understanding of what went on down in Tassie.


Aug 172014
 
Very interesting article from the Fortean Times, published some time in the 90s, which was sent to me by J.T. Lindroos (who is also an excellent cover designer, just saying!). There's a curious discussion on the Queensland tiger, that sounds more big cat than thylacine, and an interesting guess at the current numbers of around 1,000; note the writer using the pseudonym Tigerman guesses at around 200, or less, extant thylacines now in Tasmania.


Page One

 Page Two









Tasmanian tiger in New Guinea

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Aug 142014
 
The thylacine once roamed throughout Australia, and on New Guinea, the large island to the north of the continent. It's thought the tiger became extinct on mainland Australia about 2,000 years ago and possibly earlier on New Guinea. A number of theories account for this, including loss of habitat to incoming dingoes, who were far less choosy eaters, and hunting by indigenous peoples. What's far harder to explain away is continued sightings of thylacines on New Guinea. This short video gives a fascinating account of such sightings in West Papua Province (previously known as Irian Jaya). Locals say the thylacine, which they call dobsenga, lives in the region's high country.

The ever-so irregular Friday round-up

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Aug 082014
 
It's Friday, so time to round up some of the last week (-ish or so) of stuff that's been happening. Or not, as the case may be.

Shockeroonie, as Frank McAvennie might say, THE LAST TIGER has made it onto the shortlist for The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize. Voting closed last Sunday and the results show it was about as tight as a tight run thing, so thanks a million to all of you who voted, and double thanks to my excellent publishers Cargo for nominating.

The next round sees The Guardian reviewing all of the shortlisted titles before another vote and eventual decision by a judging panel. All the best of luck to those on the shortlist, I can't wait to delve into some of those books so props (see how street I am?) to The Guardian for bringing them to my attention.

THE LAST TIGER - currently 99p - has also been steadily picking up some nice reviews over at Amazon and some equally nice coverage in the press, with The Herald (almost) making my trip Down Under their splash today. There's also a great interview at The Inverness Courier, where I talk to journo of note Calum MacLeod. And, if you grab a copy of this month's Writing Magazine you'll find another interview with me in there.

Meanwhile back at the crime fiction ranch, ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD, the novel Ayr-writer Michael Malone still believes is called Architects of the Dead (too much Grand Designs, Mick!) got a great reception at Weegie Words in Glasgow this week, where I read the section about a banker getting impaled on a wooden spike.


Artefacts - not Architects! - has also picked up some fine reviews lately, with the Daily Mail praising its "taut, heart-wrenchingly honest protagonist and impressive literary style".

They went on - and I for one wasn't about to stop them: 

"It is among the best of the new Tartan Noir, a story told with real poignancy amid the ugliness and fear."

This week Artefacts also kicked off a serialisation in the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal newspaper which will run till the end of the year and saw its book trailer - and my beard - aired to the world:

 

And finally, my novella THE RINGER has sneaked into print on Amazon and has had quite a few takers in its first week or so. It's a lovely edition, it must be said, with an excellent cover design by the ever-talented Jim Divine. You can grab a copy in the UK for £4.99 and in the USA for the dollar equivalent. Meanwhile in the Czech Republic DI Rob Brennan has made his way into print with Murder Mile. At least, I think that's what it says on the cover ...
Oh, one last thing, if you fancy the chance to win £200 worth of books then you can now nominate your favourite crime writer for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. Simply visit the sponsor's website and list your three favs. It's an award for a body of work, so the writer needs to have published at least three books ... I've published way more than that, ahem, just saying.

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.