Thursday, July 26, 2007


Isn't it typical?

My big break-out novel LAST LIGHT... a thriller touching on a HUGE issue that affects everyone - an issue that literally is right round the corner from us...came out in the same bleedin' fortnight as Harry Potter. Not just any Potter book of course, but the last one, the one everyone will want to buy.

You go into any book shop now, and you'll find atleast 25% of the table space that would otherwise have been devoted to new books coming out, filled with Potter books. And of course, my book, the one that I had hoped would be the Big Issue novel of the summer, the one that would stimulate debate in every living room across the country, will quietly vanish to the anonymity of A-Z in bookstores around the country.


Sadly in this business you only really get one bite at the cherry; a window of about 12-16 weeks where the book gets a chance to sit up front in the store on one of those center tables and hopefully grab the attention of browsing customers with a wonderfully eye-catching cover.

Well, that window was lost to Harry Potter. Marvelous.

I never stood a chance.

Well, I'm not a quitter. LAST LIGHT will come out in paperback next year. I'm hoping it won't coincide with the paperback release of HP7...I really am. But, sheeesh, let's think positive. It won't coincide. And LAST LIGHT will have a chance - on those center tables - to attract the attention of tens of thousands of customers casually grazing for a summer read.

And then of course, whilst I may not have a marketing campaign, there's always word of mouth. I stumbled upon this page of reviews for LL the other day. None of these people are my mum. None of them my best mate. None of them are me reviewing under a pseudonym. These reviews have come from total strangers who picked the book up because something in the cover attracted their gaze.

Here....take a look for yourself: Waterstones Page

There's hope yet. really is the lifeblood of unknown authors. Without people prepared to take the time and stick a few words of review up on the net, newbie authors like me would be wholly screwed.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

HEROES - First impressions

Hmmm....the jury is out, as far as I'm concerned. I'll whittle this down into a list of Good and Bad.

The Good:

There were moments which were mesmeric and pleasant. For example the hallucinatory cut aways of the guy who thinks he can fly. Mainly it's the music and the musing's nice.

I liked Hiro, the Japanese guy who can teleport. I believe in that character, I believe there are plenty of nerds like him around the world, who look like him, sound like him and believe the same zany stuff as him.

I liked some of the no-holes-barred FX...the pokey-outy rib cage on the cheerleader, the sawn of skulls. Pretty grisly, but encouraging that this'll be a post 9pm watershed viewing experience.

The Bad:

Oh where do I start?...I know, the catwalk cast.

Why, oh why, oh US tv shows feel the need to populate their shows with tall, athletic, impossibly glamorous characters with really cool hair, and marvelous bone structure? Every time I see a character like that I feel the urge to turn over and watch something else. Impossibly glamorous people like this don't live in the real world, they live in me, they are not real people, therefore I simply do not care for them.

I mean take a look at the image above; the glamourous webcam hooker-mom, the glamorous brilliant Indian scientist, the glamorous flying doctor, the glamorous high school cheerleader....the glamorous artist guy, his glamorous girlfriend....I really couldn't give a toss about any of them.

On the other hand, the Japanese guy, and the tubby, I felt they looked more like real people, therefore I was instantly ready to empathise with them and their storylines. It's really not rocket science. Cast real people and you'll get the audience onboard much quicker.

There was some painfully in-yer-face expository dialog in the first few scenes. That's annoying perhaps to other writers who recognise when a conversation is taking place between two characters simply to get the viewing audience up to speed on the story. You know what I mean, the kind of dialog that goes:

Character A: 'But Bob, you know your father always hated you?'

Character B: 'Ah yes, he did, ever since I first discovered he was working on discovering XYZ. He had no time for a little kid like me.'

Character A: 'And that always affected you Bob, didn't it? That your father hated you? So you went to University to prove yourself to him?'

etc etc.

That kind of dialog usually comes in thick and fast near the beginning of a show/film as the writer desperately races to educate the viewer so he'd ready for the plot to begin. But, you know, a good writer does it subtly, a bad writer doesn't.

In Summary:

I'm going to stick with it for now. It is an interesting premise, and I like that most of the budget will end up on the screen and not in the back pockets of a recogniseable celebrity cast. biggest moan is the insecurity American Tv/film producers have, insisting on catwalk casts. Really, it's okay, the viewing audience can handle non-gorgeous characters. So's a quiet tip for you casting pro's guys:-

...ordinary tv-viewing people like us, actually prefer normal looking people, okay?

Monday, July 16, 2007

END OF we know it?

On a monday morning, about four years ago, I recieved a chain email. It was pretty short and went something along the lines of 'Peak Oil, have you heard of it yet?'...and then there was some plea tacked onto the end for me to forward the email to everyone in my contact book.
Well, of course I didn't. Not straight away at least. Curious, I googled 'Peak Oil'. And that was the moment my perception of the world changed. How I viewed pretty much everything in my life, around me, on TV, on every shelf in every shop in my town, county, country...the world, was changed by what I discovered throughout that monday morning as I followed a breadcrumb trail of websites and statistics that nearly turned my hair white. I discovered that there are hundreds of websites devoted to the subject, some sites screaming that the end of the world was nigh, others dispassionately discussing the idea. And thousands of people who are already 'in the know' and either panicking hysterically, or quietly preparing for the future.
So before I go any further, let me sum up what Peak Oil stands for.
It's the point at which the global apex of oil production has been reached, the point at which production begins to slide downhill - largely due to exhausted oil fields. Some say this apex or 'Peak' is still decades away. Some say we're passing the peak right now. Some believe we passed over the peak back in 2000-2001. If you take a position roughly halfway between the pessimists and optimists, then you're looking at a peak roughly
The ramifications of a rapidly diminishing supply of oil are actually quite horrendous. It's not just that you'll find it harder and harder to fill up your car. It's far, far worse than that. We're talking food production plummeting and bottoming out, power-outs, riots, anarchy. We're talking flashpoints between India, China, Russia and the USA over the final viable oilfields in central asia. It's not a pretty picture, and an argument can be made for this really being...the beginning of end of civilization as we know it.
Or put another way...the end of the oil age.
As a writer, this is the kind of stuff I'm always on the lookout for. Thrilling, frightening, sobering material. However, as a regular guy, a husband, a's depressing as hell. Knowing that there's nothing I can take for granted any more, really does suck the joy out of life. I knew, though, that I had to abandon the book I was planning to write and instead write a book about Peak Oil, and that I'd probably have to do it within the context of the classic thriller template:
  • A guy who knows what's coming and trying to tell the world.
  • Bad guys trying to stop him.
  • An exciting chase
  • ...and a thrilling climax, where the good guy wins.
But you know...I didn't want it to fully conform with that standard template. I didn't want it to end with the good guy thwarting the bad guys, the status quo restored, and everyone happily getting on with their lives. Instead, I wanted the end of this book to be chilling...not reassuring. I wanted it to end with everything falling apart, to be a crystal ball for what the future has in store for us, unless we seriously get our act together and start weaning ourselves off oil as soon as possible.


The book comes out in the next couple of weeks, it's called LAST LIGHT. Of course I'm hoping for sales....a lot of sales. Partly, because for my own sanity I want to see Peak Oil becoming a phrase buzzing across news stations, headlining papers, being discussed in book clubs, in pubs and bars and to generally raise awareness of that ticking clock. But also, I want sales....a lot, because I need enough money to buy a remote island somewhere, build a bunker, stock it with food and bottled water, build a wind turbine or two and hunker down and wait for the end to come.
Right okay I'm joking there...or maybe not.

nb: I made a trailer for it. Which some people have found a little unsettling. And there's of course the obligatory Amazon link.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

LIVE EARTH:...oh come on

Anyone seeing the irony here? I'm watching Madonna right now, as I write this. Fantastic stage show, fantastic danceing, music, lights...I mean, the entire stage backdrop is a mosaic of powerful 1000watt coloured bulbs, simply mesmerising and beautiful.

She's standing on that stage, in front of let's conservatively say, a million watts of lighting, prattling on about global warming and carbon burn. And the entire audience is like 'yeah...burning energy is like really bad, dude.'

I'm rendered speechless by such a staggeringly blatant demonstration of hypocracy, which Madge isn't entirely to be blamed for...she's just cynically working on her celebrity profile. No, I blame the organisers for putting together a show that signals on so many levels the wrong message, whilst supposedly soap-boxing the right message.

And I blame the entire cigarette lighter-waving audience in the auditorium for bleating the green message along with Madge whilst contributing to the horrendous carbon burn of tonight's Live Earth orgy by making their various car/train/tube/bus/taxi come along and support the good ol' green message.

Sheeeesh. If you want the cynical self-serving shits in power to take the global warming message seriously, this simply ISN'T the way to do it.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007


The spate of failed bomb attempts in the last week, and rumours circling through the intelligence community of a 'hot summer' have put terrorism right in front of us on our breakfast tables again.

In amongst the same old talking heads, saying the same old things on Newsnight last night as they discussed exactly WHY suicide bombers are queueing up to be blown to shreds, I heard a very interesting comment from a Muslim spokesman, whose name I only heard once - Hassam Butt(sp?)...I really can't vouch for the spelling of his surname, as I only heard it once at the end.

Anyway, Hassam drew everyone's attention to the fact that, contrary to conventional wisdom, these 'home grown' bombers aren't going to their deaths with a grudge or as a protest. These are not disgruntled, 'disconnected' outcasts from the western world (in fact, the latest batch appear to have qualified doctors amongst their number) they are in fact very normal, largely content with their host nation and with no major axe to grind. One might even go as far as to say, they're not even particularly fussed over Palestine, nor any more anti-war than most other people in the UK, nor are they frothing at the mouth to convert us Infidels to Islam...

Nope...none of that....that's at best, incidental. The curious point Hassam made was that it's not anger, or conviction, or protest that's making them do's sheer joy.

His point was (and to be fair to him, I'm not directly quoting), that at some level in the Islamic community, clerics are convincing young men that sacrificing your life this way will put you directly on the express elevator to Heavan. And I suspect, Heavan is pitched to these susceptible young men as sounding very much like some kind of Ultra-Exclusive, members-only Club 18-30 holiday resort.

These guys, Hassam said, aren't going to their deaths with a sombre face, and a parting tear-filled curse at this evil world, instead, they're grinning like cheshire cats, like over-sugared and over-excited kids clambering aboard Disneyland's Space Mountain...and eagerly awaiting for that rollercoaster ride to paradise to begin.

That, I find absolutely terrifying, because you just can't fix that. If it was a protest, then perhaps you could look at the grievance and in some way deal with it (if of course, as a society, you've decided to bow to this kind of protest)...but, like I say, if Hassam is right, these guys don't really care for anything...

...other than getting to this cool-sounding Heavan-place as quickly as possible, that is.