Tony Black

Latest column for the Highland Times

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Oct 102014
 


My latest column for the Highland Times newspaper has just gone live.

This week it's about the dramatic downturn in author earnings - slumping to a low of £11,000 this year according to the latest figures by the ALCS.

There's also a bit of commentary in there from publishing legend Allan Guthrie, himself an award winning writer, a literary agent and a successful publisher in partnership with Kyle MacRae at Blasted Heath.

You can read the column now at the Highland Times.

Les Goes Back to Work

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Oct 102014
 
If there's one writer we look out for her on Pulp Pusher it's Les Edgerton. If you didn't realise the author of The Bitch and The Rapist has a new one out and it sounds like a classic piece of Edgerton genius....Here's the run-down:

A mix of Cajun gumbo, a couple tablespoons of kinky sex and a dash of unusual New Orleans settings and you wind up with Les Edgerton’s latest romp fest! 

Pete Halliday is busted out of baseball for gambling and travels to New Orleans to make his fortune hustling. Five years later, he’s deep in debt to bookie and in cahoots with Tommy LeClerc, a Cajun with a tiny bit of Indian blood who considers himself a red man. 

Tommy inveigles a reluctant Pete into one scheme after another, the latest a kidnapping scheme where they’ll snatch the Cajun Mafia King and hold his amputated hand for some serious jack. 

Along the way, Pete is double-crossed by Tommy and falls in love with part-time hooker and full-time waitress Cat Duplaisir. With both the Italian and Cajun mobs after them, a chase through Jazz Fest, a Tourette’s outbreak in a black bar and other zany adventures, all seems lost. 

Fans of Tim Dorsey’s character Serge Storms, and readers who enjoy Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen will enjoy this story. 

“A hard-driving, relentless story with grab-you-by-the-throat characters.”—Grant Blackwood, New York Times bestselling author 

“The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnaping is not for the faint of heart, and that’s just one of its selling points. If you like crime fiction that cracks wise while offering a peek into the darker recesses, this is the book for you.” —Bill Fitzhugh, author of Pest Control and The Exterminators 

“...a dark crime comedy that will have you laughing from page one. It crackles with manic energy and mad thrills. If you’re looking for a different kind of edgy crime novel, this is the one to grab.” —Bill Crider, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries 

“Les Edgerton’s latest book is the real deal, and has everything to keep you turning the pages. It’s a caper, full of fun and high-jinx, but it’s also bitter-sweet, engendering a full range of emotions. You’ll smile, you’ll wince, you’ll laugh out loud, and sometimes you’ll even cringe, but you’ll come away from the read feeling thoroughly satisfied and entertained. A terrific read.” —Matt Hilton, author of the best-selling Joe Hunter thrillers.

:: Buy the book on Amazon

Not the Booker prize – the final vote

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Oct 072014
 
If you've been following the Not the Booker prize over at The Guardian's website then it can't have escaped you that the hotly-anticipated moment where the winner is announced will soon be upon us.

There's been a few weeks of voting and review - harsh but fair, in the main - under the excellent stewardship of the paper's Sam Jordison and now it's time for the judging panel to make a decision ... but not before the great British public get another chance to chip in their tuppence worth!

Until Monday, October 13, you can vote can vote for your fav' book on the shortlist by going to the comments section and leaving the words, 'Vote: The Last Tiger' (for, ahem, example) and a sentence or two (about 40-words or so) on the reasons behind your choice.

So, simple enough, and you can get voting here.

Oct 042014
 
I wrote a note to my young self for The Courier.
It's been a bit of a gig-arama recently with visits to the Inverness Book Festival, Bloody Scotland and the Spirit of Moray Festival in Elgin.

All good fun.

And next week, I'm off to prison, Shotts Prison, to talk to some of the inmates, who are always great sources of material and a good laugh.

The next stop is Tasmania, a former prison colony - a theme could be emerging here - to do some promotional events for THE LAST TIGER.

There's some more media stuff lined-up in Melbourne on the same trip and then it's the beach. For some time.

Some good news on the prize front, with ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD picking up a CWA Dagger in the Library nomination. Huge congrats to my publishers Black & White for that. You can view the long list - some very stiff competition - here.

ARTEFACTS has also been picking up some very nice reviews, courtesy of some very nice people, like Maxim Jakubowski over at Love Reading.

"Tony Black was brought up in Scotland and his voice resounds powerful and authentic ... The plot and the writing are slick and assured and unfold like dark clockwork. Black is the veteran of two previous series, respectively featuring D.I. Rob Brennan, and private eye Gus Dury. Valentine is a welcome addition to his palette of troubled but fascinating sleuths." -Maxim Jakubowski

And the ever-observant Crime Squad crew turned their critical powers on ARTEFACTS too, delivering up a 5-star verdict.

"Tony Black’s novels are modern masterpieces which bear comparison with the works of notable noir authors such as Hammett and Chandler. ‘Artefacts for the Dead’ is a fantastically dark novel which follows DI Bob Valentine as he struggles to make his way back from injury in the line of duty. Each chapter, page and sentence is crafted with the care of a true artisan as Black tells his story." -Crime Squad

In a hat-trick of cracking reviews for ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD The Scots Magazine gave the thumbs up like this:

'Another grim but great whodunnit, set in Ayr, and one for DI Bob Valentine to get to the bottom of. Tony Black's talent for the Scottish noir puts him up there with the best, as any who have read his previous books will testify to. This one in particular is hard to put down.' -The Scots Mag

And finally, the excellent blog The Rap Sheet has a little piece about 'The Story Behind the Story' of ARTEFACTS which I wrote recently; always great to be in such esteemed company as TRS folks.


:: In other news, THE LAST TIGER is nearing the final stages of The Guardian's Not The Booker Prize, all the reviews are in now but you can still add your comments. There'll be a final vote in the next week or so and if you have the chance - even if you voted in the first round - please do take the time to do so once more.

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.


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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.