On a small island

I am currently on an island smaller than the one where I usually live. Quite a bit smaller, in fact. And it’s a very interesting experience. Something is different. There’s a sense of isolation here, and almost one of pride, in being rather cut off from the world. I get the feeling everyone knows everyone else (of course, they don’t) and that it is indeed a small and self-sufficient little world (again, it’s obvious that it’s not self-sufficient).

And at the same time, it’s very cosmopolitan. I’m surrounded by English and French voices, and even street and family names, and there are a lot of Flemish/Dutch speakers around. So I’m intrigued by the whole concept of an island community – and in a sense, this is a great place for a locked-room mystery – on a very large scale.

I might not want to live here, but I’d be fascinated to spend a little more time here watching and learning.


Do reviews matter?

As someone who has been asked to provide reviews of others’ books (and has sometimes failed to provide them – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa), and also as someone who writes books and welcomes reviews, this is a subject about which I have opinions.

When I published my first book, Beneath Gray Skies, I was convinced, as are all new authors, that I had written a masterpiece, and that the hundreds of positive four- and five-star reviews it would garner would send it to the top of the best-seller lists.

By the way, this old promotional video uses an old URL – this site is now the place to be!
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The Assassin’s Coin – John Linwood Grant – Review

John Linwood Grant and I have been friends on Facebook for some time now. We share a love of books, of the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras, and a sense of the surreal and absurd, and he has interviewed me on the subject of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, and been kind enough to write things about another of my books. He, however, has lurchers and a beard, as the biography at the end of his latest book, The Assassin’s Coin, reveals – I have neither.

I was going to buy the ebook edition of this book, but since the only ebook edition appears to be in Kindle format, and I don’t own a Kindle, I went for the printed paperback, and I’m glad I did. It’s a nicely produced slim volume, with no glaring typos or other print-based infelicities, and it’s of a length to be read in one sitting. However, I took a couple of evenings to finish it – it was a book that made me put it down, think, and then take it up again.

Continue reading “The Assassin’s Coin – John Linwood Grant – Review”

The future as seen from the past

Two years ago I was invited to talk in London about science and literature. Being someone who lives in the past (at least in a literary sense), I decided to talk about Jules Verne and H.G.Wells, and if possible to bring in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


It seemed a fairly straightforward sort of thing to be talking about, but in the end, it turned out to be a little more complex than I had imagined.

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Here we go again (and what the last time did for my writing?)…

In 2008, I was living in Japan, and making my living as a freelance writer. One of the assignments that came my way was the editing of an investment bank’s English-language marketing materials, prior to their translation into Japanese. However, something got in the way… Continue reading “Here we go again (and what the last time did for my writing?)…”

It’s new font time…

Anyone who knows anything about the booky side of me knows that I love fonts. I try not to be too gimmicky about them and I avoid a lot of the “script” and “brush” fonts, as I’m not really a graphic designer doing posters, but I do try to find a font for a book body that suits the content.

For example…

Continue reading “It’s new font time…”

Secrets known to a few…

I don’t watch many films, but when I do, it’s usually on planes. Why I don’t watch many films is a mystery shrouded in the mists of time… Actually, it’s more to do with attention span and imagination, I think. I prefer, on the whole, to read for myself (fast) and imagine action, rather than to watch it (slowly) on screen. It was the same at college – I preferred to read my lecturers’ books rather than attend their lectures which basically only rehashed the books.

Anyway, back to films… the few I have seen recently seem to be more along similar lines. I tend not to choose to watch romances, remakes of classics, or action movies. Historical, yes, and various kinds of “other” productions, including childrens’ films (I like the Minions and Despicable Mes, for example).

A few that I have watched recently all seem to fit the same pattern, though, and I think it is a reflection of the current state of affairs in the world. Or maybe the world is being influenced by them, and people are emulating the stars and the plots of these films, but I think this is Hollywood doing what it has done for a long time – providing viewers with the realisation of their fantasies.

Continue reading “Secrets known to a few…”

New toy time…

Just treated myself to a decent keyboard (piano-type, not QWERTY). In Japan, I bought a Kurzweil MIDIboard, a heavyweight monster of a thing which was a beast to program and lovely to play (polyphonic aftertouch, anyone? Great with the Arturia CS-80). It lasted me for over 20 years, and when I came to leave Japan, it was still working well, and I had no wish to throw it away. It ended up with Morgan Fisher, former keyboard player with Mott the Hoople, who took it off my hands.


It was great to hear him play the opening to “All the Way from Memphis” using this as one of his test pieces when he was deciding whether to buy it off me or not.

But that left me with no keyboard when I came to England. I’ve been using a CME Xkey 37 – another poly aftertouch beast, but the action is very limiting, and I wanted to play some piano – 3 octaves are not enough.


So I looked around, and found what looked like a great deal – a Fatar keybed allied to a decent piano, with a tonewheel organ emulator (with drawbars!), and a subtractive synth – and some fairly sophisticated MIDI facilties.

It has only just made it into the mass market, after production difficulties, it would appear, and my Studiologic Numa Compact 2X made it here this morning. So far, so good, though I have already uncovered a few wrinkles, but no dealbreakers.

Soon I’ll be uploading something to Soundcloud to tell you all what it sounds like.In the meantime, this is what it looks like – and it really is compact (and lightweight at 7kg).


Audiobooks – a question

MrMoleCallsI’ve held off the idea of audiobooks for some time, mainly because I have not found them as easy to distribute as ebooks. However, I have recorded some of them for my own amusement – the Sherlock Ferret series allows me to do quite a lot of silly voices, and also add a little mystery to things.

Here’s a chapter out of Sherlock Ferret and the Phantom Photographer. The whole book lasts for about an hour read in this way.

My question is: how much would you consider paying for a recording of this kind, given that the price for the print edition is US$7.99 or £5.99? Please let me know in the comments below.



Alternative (or in the USA, alternate) history is a genre of fiction where the world has taken a different turn some time in the past, and has produced a timeline which differs from ours. In that the events described in the book rely on a distortion of history prior to those events, it may be seen as different from historical science fiction.

In this latter category, I think we have to place Susanna Clarke’s magnificent magical (in every sense of the word) tour de force, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, although it deals with people and places and events (the Duke of Wellington, Waterloo) in our world, together with others (John Uskglass, Faerie, etc.), that though meticulously described, have no counterpart in real life.

Continue reading “Alt.history”

My blog (such as it is)

This site allows me to share my thoughts as a writer, and to tell you something about my books, and the processes behind their creation.

I also hope that in the future, I will be able to publish my conversations with other authors on here and provide considerably more general information on books, writing, and life, the universe and everything.

In the meantime, enjoy looking round the site.


And that’s probably it for today

Banana choco
A weird, but seemingly popular, food sold at festivals etc. in Japan. I’ve never had the courage to try one!

I’ve come further with this site than I thought I would. Just put up another page of unclassifiable books. Since I don’t stick to one genre all the time, it’s inevitable that there will be some outliers which refuse to fall neatly into one category.

However, some of these have been the most fun to write, and have attracted a fair amount of critical acclaim. Tales of Old Japanese gets almost universal praise, and I suppose it is the most “literary” of all my published writing. You might want to give it a go – although the protagonists of the stories are older Japanese people, you might find yourself identifying with them and their predicaments.

There’s also an attempt at a Father Brown pastiche. Much more difficult than a Sherlock Holmes pastiche for a variety of reasons.