Tuesday, December 19, 2006

King Media

Anyone else think this is a bit wrong? Don't get me wrong - I'm all for lynching convicted killers, but this guy has only just been arrested. He has not been found guilty of anything. And to top it off, they've arrested another guy, no doubt soon to be sacrificed at the alter of King Media. So, one of those guys is guilty. And the other, though innocent, has his life ruined.

Also note the terrible myspace publicity. If ever there was a thing to put people off joining a club, it's the thought of mixing with serial prostitute killers. Maybe.

Monday, December 11, 2006

BBC Sports Personality Bollocks

What a pile of horse shit. Who seriously gives a fuck about equestrianism, other than posh "old money" people who are so inbred that they are actually related to horses? "Thank you to my parents," says Zara Rhodes, or whatever her name is, "for throwing literally millions of pounds at me over the years - money supplied by British taxpayers, or revenue from the crown estates, which we own by divine right, because we are royal and we have blue blood. Oh, and I go out with a pug-faced rugby player, so you're not allowed to call me a snob."

Everybody knows Joe Calzaghe should have got it. Boxing is a proper sport. In boxing, you don't have a staggeringly expensive horse to do all the fucking work for you. Mind you, there's an idea... horse boxing.

Friday, December 08, 2006

fuck sake

Been looking at Amazon.com. They have this "books on related topics" feature which seems to scan the text of a book and work out, using clever jiggery pokery based on shared phrases, what other books you might like.

Take my second novel, FAGS AND LAGER. Amazon offers up PORNO by Irvine Welsh and SLIDER by Patrick Robinson, as well as DEADFOLK by Charlie Williams. The "related topics" my book shares with PORNO are "fuck sake", "fuckin pint", "other cunt" and "big cunt". Smart, eh? For SLIDER it's "head doorman", "fuck sake" and "fucking hell". The shared topics with DEADFOLK are too numerous to list, but you can take it from me that "fuck sake" in there.

So, if you know someone who is a fan of "fuck sake", or just curious about "fuck sake", I can recommend those four books as a nice Christmas present for that person. Probably not a good idea to buy them any Japanese liquor. (Or maybe it is? Maybe a bottle of sake with a suitably sized orifice opening would be just thing?)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

ENGLAND (or "I Was a Teenage ASBO")

I walk around this country and I'm constantly baffled by how ugly we make it. Every bit of developed space for the past hundred or so years seems to be designed to hinder individuality and imagination, and just generally put you in your place. I'm sure the actual people who design all of this stuff don't have that as their aim, but it's what's coming out.

Yet, I love this place. It doesn't matter how ugly and sinister the surroundings, I feel like I am in the right place. You can try to deny life, but you will not succeed.

Of course, it doesn't help that I work in Milton Keynes. If ever a place was just made all wrong, that is the place. You can walk through great swathes of housing estate and virtually every house ("unit" seems a more apt word) is identical. You know exactly the layout of your neighbour's house, and the family four streets away.

But still, I walk through it and I quite like it.

You see, every one of them has been modified in some way. A lot of them in a slipshod way, it must be said, but many of them ingeniously so. Some of them have had no actual work done on the exterior, but all you have to do is take one glance and you find out something about the people who live there. Life just spills over, wherever you put it.

People talk about ASBO teens and out-of-control teenagers. I prefer to call them "kids". It's a quaint term and it means people who are not grown up yet. Yeah yeah, I know what violent, selfish tossers some of them can be. I've had a couple of run-ins myself. But is it really a surprise that they get up to stuff? Do we really expect everyone to grow up well-adjusted in a country like this?

Confession: As a teenager, I was one of those troublemakers. I didn't go round mugging old grannies, but I did do quite a few things that should be frowned upon (although I was probably smirking at the time). I found myself in juvenile court. I hung around with other troublemakers. I recall literally going around looking for trouble. And finding it. Lots of times.

Thinking back, I was a bit of a nightmare.

My only saving grace is that I knew others who were way, WAY worse than me. And I saw the light and got out of all that before any more damage was done. (Not damage to your property, you understand, but damage to my prospects of getting a job. And I wanted a job so I could buy hip clothes and a car, and go around pulling birds. Teenagers are selfish, remember?)

Anyone who has met me knows that I'm a reasonable person. (There's a challenge if I ever heard it...) So why was I such a cunt, twenty years ago? Without making excuses for myself, perhaps it was because I was growing up in a place designed to squash life. Scrub the graffiti off the walls and it's still an ugly, claustrophobic town. But hey, life just spills over.

"Bring back National Service," says my grandad.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


A lot of good writers give up writing too early. A lot of people try and write that novel but never get there. Some lose interest, and were never truly into it anyway. But a lot give up through frustration. Before you started writing, you had a brilliant idea, but when you tried writing it down and fleshing it out, it just didn't seem right. What you see there on the page, it's not quite what you intended. It does not please you. I think it's the same for all writers. (It's like that for me, anyway.) But the ones who stick with it are the ones who find away around this dissatisfaction.

The way I see it, there are two ways:

1. Never look back at what you've done. On and on until the end. Then look back.
2. Accept that the first draft is just digging. Be prepared to go back and dig down a different route at any point. And look out for anything shiny.

I am in the second camp

That great idea you initially had, it's not so great. It's a good starting point, but that's all it is. A great novel is not all about a great idea. It's about a whole lot of different things - some great, some not - that fit together and want to hold hands. For me, the process of writing the novel (first draft) is about discovering what those things are, and getting them holding hands with the rest of the gang (everything you have down so far). This may entail cutting someone out of the group. When I was writing my second published novel (FAGS AND LAGER), I got halfway through before I realised, after much agony, that the previous 20,000 words were a mistake. So out they came. Yeah, it hurt like hell and I had to drown my sorrows for a while. But as soon as I cut out the cancer and got moving again in the right direction, I was OK. I was loving it.

I'm wondering if that agony is what makes some writers (and many of them potentially good writers) give up?

20,000 words is a big chunk to cut out. More likely, I'll be going back into the novel again and again and making smaller adjustments - cut a few words here and change that bit. Sometimes you realise that a character is just not required. It's been nice knowing him, but if he has no place in the novel, out he goes. On his arse.

I think a big part of it is where you first put the spade in the dirt. One novel I wrote had my main character hanging out with this strange guy from the outset, and a lot of goings-on in the first few chapters that led him up to something else, which turned out to be the main thrust of the novel. At some point, I realised that I didn't need that intro. That strange guy's purpose was just to take me somewhere else, and once I got there, it was bye bye strange guy and a complete rewrite of the first couple of chapters.

Again, agony. Whatever it takes. Pain is only temporary.

So is a hangover.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Top 10 Reads

Here are what I think are the best novels around, at time of press, in no particular order. No doubt I've left out a biggie.

MONEY by Martin Amis

I've never seen a writer so on fire, in terms of accessing the English language and turning it to his own demonic ends. He plays with it like putty, making obscene and ridiculous shapes with it before rolling it up again and doing something else. I've always thought that Amis got a bit bored after reaching these heights.

CRASH by JG Ballard

Another language one. I know a lot of people see CRASH as primarily a big knock at post-industrial culture, fucking the automobile etc, but to me it's the funniest comic novel I've ever read. You can have both polemic and full-on laughs in the same book. That's always my ambition anyway.


An old favourite. I read it in my teens and was horrified to find myself moist-eyed. But, shit, what a babe Tess is. And Angel Clare... ah, such a twat. But yes, I know, they were shackled by the constraints of their time etc... I'm not sure if what I write is noir, but I can see some of the elements in my stuff. For me (and without getting bogged down with definitions) noir is about fate, and how the world will fuck you at every turn. Probably reading TESS at an earlyish age instilled that in me. But what a babe!


I'm always surprised to realise that I love this one so much. I suppose not many have heard of it (especially in the UK), but you should seek it out. Really it's a coming-of-age thing about a kid from the desert moving to the surfing beaches of California in search of his lost sister... and finding himself in a whole heap of shit. I'm not much of a summariser, but you can trust me that everything is pulled off just right. You get dragged into darker and darker places (from your point of innocence behind the young hero), and by the end you know you have been somewhere. Just brilliant.

POP. 1280 by Jim Thompson

Thompson... I could pick many of his novels, but this one sticks out a bit more than most. Before I read it, I just didn't realise what you could get away with in terms of totally unrestrained protagonists in positions of (perceived) authority, which is a big area of interest for me. Actually, I think the main pull for me is that, in this book, Thompson is spectacularly at ease with the first-person voice.

DON QUIXOTE by Miguel de Cervantes

You just start reading this big old Penguin Classic, and then you keep reading, and then you get to the end and you're sad. Your eyes are moist. But it's not like Tess. You're not sad at the fate of old Don, but because such a great book is over. Go on, read it again.

PET SEMETARY by Stephen King

I heard that King (who had a young family at the time) wrote this one and then put it in a drawer for a couple of years, because it scared him. I don't think any other King novel (or anyone's novel, come to think of it) gets as close to the primal fears at the heart of every family. For me, this is his most horrifying novel.

PICK UP by Charles Willeford

As I was saying to someone the other day, never has a last line in a novel knocked me off-balance as much as this one. PLEASE don't cheat. Just read it all from the start. And DONT CHEAT.


"Quiet" being the operative word here. No big bangs and tense action in Mills' novels, just a gentle stroll through the countryside that leaves you with the uneasiest of feelings...


Got to have a Goodis in here, and this one nails it easy for me. A long time since I read it, but the feeling stays fresh. You read it thinking "yeah, great, but this is the normal sort of stuff.." Ah, but it's not. Think about it and everything is different from your usual noir novel of the time. (NB: Original title is DOWN THERE. The "SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER" one is borrowed (wisely, I think) from Truffaut's film version)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Not blog off

When I said I'm abandoning this blog for good, of course I was just being figurative. Jesus Christ, some people can be so literal. What I'm doing now, see, is mirroring this blog with the one I've got on myspace. Slightly more graft involved but, you know, this way more people get to read the excellent things I post here. And also the shit things. Mind you, people on myspace might get the odd piece of short fiction now and then. (And I am talking ODD.)

Anyways, carry on with what you were doing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shite books

Why are there so many dull books out there? I walk into a bookshop and the dullness engulfs me within seconds. Open up the book review pages of a broadsheet: ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Walk into a library... you know it.

Sounds like I'm a typical bibliophobe here, but I'm not. Believe me, I love books. But it took the right kind of book for me to first get interested. You know what that was, for me? Worzel Gummidge novels, when I was about 9. I'm not tempted to open one now (aged 9+), but back then the "otherness" of this world where scarecrows walk was just compelling. No shit! Later on it was Stephen King, then on to all kinds such as Thomas Hardy and Kingsley Amis and I don't know what else. All of these guys either had a unique take on the world and knew how to put it across in an utterly compelling way. Preferably they also knew how to put FUN on the page.

Don't get me wrong, I am no advocate of "feelgood" novels. (Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.) However, a writer should never neglect to put in a joke funny, should one crop up. Cut out the jokes and you're cutting out half the entertainment. Which brings me back to where I started. Books are entertainment, and should be accepted as such. That means they are right there alongside CDs, DVDs, vid games, and wank mags.

When I walk into a record/DVD shop, I know I can spend hours in there. The whole atmosphere of the place tells me that I'm going to have a good time looking for cool stuff. When I walk into a high street bookshop or a library, I know I'm going to have a fucking dull time... finding cool stuff. Either there is just not enough cool stuff to make it worth my while (high street bookshop) or the cool stuff is hidden away in this warehouse of sleep (library).

Hey, I didn't start this post with the intention of knocking bookshops and libraries. I wanted to slag off the bulk of authors out there, and the mainstream publishers who perpetuate this culture of mediocrity, zero risk-taking, and literary snobbery. Brilliant books are out there. I've read them. They are dark and funny and eye-opening and gut-wrenching and utterly compelling, and they take you somewhere you never knew you wanted to go. And books are cool. For fuck's sake, books can be hip, man. And I don't mean hip like some Hoxton he-slag with a two turntables and a neo-mullet. I mean cool as in this is what you want to do, kids. So do it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Novel wars

After nearly four years of living in the current house, I've finally got some book shelves up and unpacked all my books onto them. I'm sure I lost a box some place but essentially all the old faves are there: the books I've collected over the years, give or take a burglary or two and giving a few away (ie: "lending").

So, for the hell of it (and in the absence of anything more interesting to blog about), here are the guys who score the most books on my shelves (and their scores):

14 Jim Thompson
13 Charles Willeford
8 Raymond Chandler
7 Ken Bruen
7 Stephen King
6 Martin Amis
6 Iain Banks
6 Clive Barker
6 Joe Lansdale
6 Graham Masterton
6 Magnus Mills
6 Jason Starr
5 Ramsey Campbell
5 Tim Lebbon
5 Elmore Leonard
5 Derek Raymond
5 John Williams
5 Charles Dickens
5 Michael Marshall (Smith)

I think that's a pretty strange list. I'm not surprised that Thompson and Willeford are way up there, but I haven't really thought of Chandler in years. And where is Hardy? I think I've read all of his books, and I love them, but where the hell are they? Same for Kingsley Amis and Irvine Welsh. Someone has got those books and I want to know who. Own up, you thieving bastard.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I only ever loved one horse

...and he was Desert Orchid.

Just watch this clip, even if you don't like horse racing, and you will love him too. He's the grey, by the way.

So long, Dessie.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Magician

If you can find it, check out Australian film THE MAGICIAN. Looks like it was shot for about 50 quid, but it's one of those ones that remind you that money is nothing without ideas and enthusiasm. My brother described it as CHOPPER meets BLAIR WITCH when he handed it to me, but I can confirm that it's way more subtle than either of those two, without being coy about anything.

Plotwise, a Melbourne hitman discovers that his neighbour is a filmmaker, and gets him to do a doc about him (to be released on the event of his death). MAN BITES DOG also comes to mind, but really it's not so much about the killing, or even the story at all. It's about character, and interplay between characters. The "Royale with Cheese" scene in PULP FICTION comes to mind. If you think the "Royale with Cheese" scene is one of the best things about PF, see this movie.

In the obligatory DVD interview, director/writer/star Scott Ryan admits that the film turned no profit (so far). I hope it does, because his resume looks a bit bare and it's a crying shame.

On an unrelated note, it's also a crying shame that Belgian director Fabrice Du Weltz only has the superb CALVAIRE on his CV. Someone give these guys jobs, now!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Guy Fawkes and punishment

Made a Guy Fawkes with the kids on Sunday. I was telling them about Mr Fawkes and his plans to blow up parliament, and how they caught him, tortured him, and burned him as a punishment. Then I told them how we carry on burning him every year... erm, as more punishment.

Is there anyone in history who has been punished more than him, for so long? Isn't it time to forgive and forget? Doesn't he have family somewhere? Surely they get fed up with all the hatred? Maybe not? Maybe modern-day Fawkes family members burn him too? "Come on, son. Time to put great-great-great......great grandad on the fire again, the dirty treacherous old bastard."

Due to some strange quirk of fate, I was born in Worcester, which is historically a rampantly royalist city who have no time for revolutionary upstarts, harbouring the fugitive King Charles II after the Battle of Worcester, etc. The quirk of fate is that one of my ancestors is Oliver Cromwell, who... well, if you did history at school then you'll know about him. Let's just say he was the biggest revolutionary upstart England has ever seen, booting out the monarchy and turning England (for five years) into a republic. He was also the winner of the Battle of Worcester, and the feller who was after Charles II's blue blood.

Anyway, after Cromwell died, the monarchy was restored and everyone turned against him. They dug him up and did some bad things to his festering corpse in London. Back in Worcester, meanwhile, they put up an effigy of his head with huge exaggerated ears (which he didn't have - look here and you'll see that Cromwell was a very handsome man), and nails through them pinning him to the wall of the Guildhall. Charming. Either side of him are King Charles I and II, just to ram the point home that Worcester is a royalist town for royalist people, and there's nothing here for republicans. And it's all still there. Every time I walk past with the kids I can say: "Look, that's what you get for getting above your station."

Monday, October 30, 2006


I had a migraine last week. I've been getting these things on and off since my mid-twenties, but for the past few years I've managed to stave off the full-blown ones off by popping a crafty pill when the warning signs show. But on Monday I was driving around in France (OK, Calais), and I didn't notice the signs. So anyway, I've been "under" for most of the week. By that I mean I just wasn't there, I was in Migraine Land. The Charlie that remained in your world was a pathetic thing. He can't even go for a piss without puking his guts (I could go into further detail but it's just too depressing). He says things like "yeah", when his concerned wife asks "Are you OK?" And "no" to the question "Do you need anything?" He's got one eye half-open for much of the time, peering somewhere in that light-starved, forbidding room. He does this because when he closes them both, that's when he goes to Migraine Land.

I say Migraine Land, but it's more like the inner landscapes of my imagination. I hate to sound precious but that's really what it seems like to me. Every time I shut my eyes I'm in a different place, and some sort of scene unfolds. Everything is in crisp detail, right down to the things on the periphery. You can walk right up to that plant and examine it. That singer in the bar, she has a consistent look, and she doesn't morph from one thing to another like they do in dreams. One time you can be soaring over snow-capped mountains towards a blood-red horizon. Then you open your eyes for a bit. Then you go back in (close your eyes) and it's this extended Rambo scenario where you have a gun and ammo and you're on one of those snowcapped mountains, and there's an entire army after you. You wipte out a few hundred of them but they keep coming, so you jump down an abandoned mineshaft. Now, at this point in a dream you would probably go off on a tangent. But not here, in Migraine Land. The bastards are still coming after you, and you have to find your way through the tunnel network and out the other side, where a chopper is hovering in wait. It's OK though - you have grenades. And the baddies are pretty poor at aiming. But there's just so many...

Unlike dreams, it's easy to remember as much of it as I want. You get pretty sick of it though, so after a while you just want it to go away and have your brain back. That's why you have your eye half-open a lot of the time.

I've got a theory about these migraines. They are hell, yes, but I see them as a function rather than a sickness. They always seem to come along when I'm stressed or exhausted, and they force you to lay low and shut down for (in my case) a few days. During that time I can't eat, and all I can drink is mineral water and maybe some lemonade. So your body detoxes. Left alone in your darkened room you have no attachment to the everyday world, so you can't worry about the issues of that world. So you shut your eyes: suddenly you're in a sort of post-apocalyptic urban ghetto, although palm trees are growing out of the sides of cracked buildings, and bison vie with strange, hooded people to graze bits of pizza off the pavement...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Blog off (again)

As I sort of said before, I am now abandoning this blog for good. And I mean it this time. However, all is not lost in the world of Charlie Williams blogging-related fun...

Ladies and gents, I gently shove you towards my new blog. You might want to bookmark it, I don't know. Up to you.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Free story for YOU

I have put up a previously unpublished story called CURRENCY on my "myspace" page thingy, here:

Charlie's "myspace" page thingy
Please check it out if you see fit to. I wrote it years ago, and it was a bit different from the other stories I was putting out back then. Very different from my current stuff too. But I like it nonetheless.

UPDATE: I forget to mention - the story is split into three parts. Part one today, part two tomorrow, etc...

Monday, October 02, 2006


I've not been here much of late. Been doing a bit of writing, bit of day job, bit of faffing around, bit of being just plain dog arse tired.

Also been spending some web time over here, on this myspace page that Mrs A.Banks forced me to set up. I might just shut up shop here and shift the whole operation over there. I dunno. If I do, I'll be sure to announce it here, so you know.

Anyway, I have a blog there that you might want to check out, should you be easily pleased. I'm going to serialise a story called CURRENCY on there this week, or maybe next.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Not seen TBL?

For the very few people in the world who have not seen THE BIG LEBOWSKI, here is the short version (go on, press play - it's only two minutes):

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Ayup Flower

Rest in peace Charlie Williams, former footballer, comedian, and quiz show host who died last night aged 78. As far as I know he got a lot of stick for sending up his colour in his comedy routines, but at least he managed to break down the barriers and get himself up there (footy pitch, stage, and screen). No mean achievement for a black man in England at the time.

People (especially older people) have often said "Ayup flower" to me when they heard my name. At first I thought they were just demented, but then I found out about my famous namesake and his catchphrase. The guy had quite a life!

Stepping up to the plate

I normally keep sports out of this blog but, shit, the world needs to recognise Clinton Woods, who defended his IBF World Light-Heavyweight title against Glen Johnson tonight.

I have to say that Woods is just not a talented fighter, IMHO. Roy Jones is pure talent. Joe Calzaghe, Floyd Mayweather Jr. But there's another way to win, and Clinton, at 34, finally fucking KNOWS it. People talk about boxers being tough. Tonight, Clinton demonstrated what tough was. It's not glamourous. It's about getting beat the first time you meet a guy, getting the shit kicked out of you the second time, and looking like going the same way on time #3. Round 9, it was rubber legs and game over. Surely?

But no - final three rounds, that's what tough is. Jesus, talk about facing demons.

The Yorkshire lad has got HEART.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Hardback at last!

Check out this little Italian stallion:

This is MORTACCI, the Italian edition of DEADFOLK which will be out over there on September 12th (or so I'm told) from Baldini Castoldi Dalai. Believe me - it is a thing of beauty. And it's in hardback! I love the Mustang on the front (which, as the whole world knows, is the American version of the Ford Capri). I just wish I knew what it all means. Or some of it. Or even just the title. Hang on, I'll go look that up... Erm, it says it means "Mortacci". That don't really help. Mind you, if you plugged "Deadfolk" into an English to Italian dictionary you'd probably get "Deadfolk".

Anyway, it's fucking great!

Oh, and Italian readers: welcome to Mangel.

PS: Credit to Massimo Bocchiola for translating the thing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Hooligan Film

Indie filmmakers Freefall Productions are going to make a short film of my story SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGAN next year, with me to script. It will rock! Mind you, the story won't see light of day until early 2008, which is the pub date of PAINT A VULGAR PICTURE, the Serpent's Tail anthology for which it was commissioned. That is a long time indeed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Separated at birth

Well done to Steve McLaren and the boys for delivering us a nice result over the... (*ahem*) "European Champs". Deliverance indeed. However, I'm still not sold on John Terry. He's a good captain and all but... has anyone ever seen him near a banjo?

Banjo boy from Deliverance
England captain John Terry

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Wayne Carr

Warning: not for old grannies.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Two fingers to you

Check out Jeremiah Palecek's 1 Painting Every Day project. Look out for the "Half ram half human reading".

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

New Shite Has Come to Lit

Old skool readers of this blog will remember Keith and Danny, the occasional guest bloggers I used to have on here. You might like to know that they are still out there, and they have set up presences on MySpace. Keith's is here, and Danny's here. Whatever you do, do not feed them.

Monday, July 31, 2006

No Thank You, Sir

As we all know, one of the world's oldest and most burning questions is: "Just how did they make the video to 'Jump In My Car' by The Hoff?"

Well, now we know.

In other news, erm...

Thursday, July 27, 2006


As I've said before, we writers need to earn a buck any way we can, which includes soiling our delicate hands with the act of selling. My own efforts in this area are in conjunction with Amazon, and together we try to flog books via my site. Here is my latest sales report:

Total shipped to customer this quarter: 0.00
Referral fee this quarter: 0.00
Credit referral fee / subscription bonuses: 0.60
Total Referral fee: 0.60
ASIN Title Fee % Price Qty Fees
Marketplace - Books
1852428511 Deadfolk 0.0% 0.50 1 0.00

As you can see, a lot of room for growth there, which is always good to have. But what I'm wondering is what cheap bastard paid 50p for Deadfolk? Fifty flipping pence!? That book is worth NEARLY TWICE that. And a copy signed by me is worth NEARLY AS MUCH. Erm, let me just check that...

In other news, it is hot.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Which is how you're meant to pronounce Harrogate, so I was told. Being a sensible person I totally ignored it and went on pronouncing it "Harrogate". Anyway, I had a great time, if you don't count the drive home when our way was blocked by a major RTA just in front of us, and some very bad stuff going on there. But the fest itself? A fine one.

The reason why I (strictly small-time) was there at all was because I was lucky enough to do an event a couple of years ago at the Birmingham Book Fest alongside Mark Billingham (large-fry) who was this year's organising committee presidente, and he is a generous as hell guy and man of his word. Where this got me was on a panel called "Unique Voices", which I guessed was the four writers who didn't fit anywhere else. Namely John Connolly, Stella Duffy, Shane Maloney, moi, and the urbane Marcel Berlins in the chair. It was a good panel and I enjoyed it (depsite the heat), but anyone who was there will know that it got kind of diverted down a strange and unnecessary side-road that didn't make much sense. Well, maybe everyone there wouldn't think that, but I sure as hell did, and I suppose it must have come across from my comments, when I could shoe-horn a word in. But I guess it's also true that strange side-roads, when driven down with enough shouting and swearing and sweat, make good entertainment. So there's that. Like I say, it was a good panel and I was grateful to be on it. It just could have been more interesting if it had stayed a little calmer and under control, and I knew what the hell people were talking about.

Most of the rest of my time there was spent (accompanied by my wife Lisa) in the bar, drinking and talking shit with God knows who. I got there about 2pm Friday and was gone before 24 hours were up. This isn't because I didn't like the fest, but because, well, we've got obligations elsewhere, youngun-wise. But I don't think I could have lasted anyway. Some of those guys, they're on the solid drink and yak from opening night to closing morn, and I don't know how it's done. The drinking I can go with, but how can you talk so much? I like to be sparing with my words. I'm like one of them red indians who don't like having their photo taken because it takes away some of their spirit, so they demand 5 dollars. I'm like that, but no one has yet paid me 5 dollars or even 5 cents (maybe I should ask in sterling next time). But hey, there are some entertaining blokes and birds out there, I'll say that.

As for star spotting, fuck that. Ian Rankin was around most of the time but what are you supposed to say? "Hi Ian, er... Can I polish yer shoes, sir?" What? I thought I saw PD James at one point, sitting on a table with a bottle of plonk in one hand and a fag in the other, but Keiran Wiggins told me I was wrong. (I'm still not sure.) And also I thought I saw David Hasselhoff, but I see him everywhere so don't worry about that.

One final thing: crime writers are, by and large, way cool people. And crime readers too. I never really understood conventions before I went along as a writer, but I do now.

People who I met there, it was great chatting to you. I don't recall one bad conversation (from my side of it anyway).

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Zidane Ban

So Zidane gets banned for 3 games and fined a paltry sum for his iconic butt on Matterazzi. What I don't understand is... why did he bother turning up to the FIFA hearing at all? The man is now retired from footy. What are they gonna do if he flicks the V and tells them where to go? It's like doing a Saturday morning detention the week after you've left school. Tell them to fuck off, Zidane.

As if I didn't have anything better to do...

I set up a Myspace page. I'm not even sure what Myspace is, but I set up the page (Thanks to Anastasia for advice and blunt criticism.) Anyway, take a look:


What is supposed to happen now? I don't know and don't care. I'm off to the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival to do a panel on "Unique Voices", meet a few writerly folks, and get bladdered.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Reality Guys

Back around 1980, when I was a whippersnapper, there was a bloke in Worcester known widely as Mad Colin. He would turn up at any kind of public gathering, such as the annual bonfire and firework display at Pitchcroft, and hang around the periphery on his Raleigh Grifter bike, which was like a sort of forerunner to the BMX. I had a Grifter too (blue), as did my brother (red) and most other kids around Worcester (unless they had Choppers). But Mad Colin was not a kid. He was in his 20s (at a guess). And no one ever spoke to him. In my memory, whenever approached, he kicked the pedals and disappeared on that Grifter. He looked a bit like Wayne Rooney, before anyone had ever invented Wayne Rooney. I have no idea who coined the name "Mad Colin", but it really worked, if you know what I mean.

Not long ago I finished writing a novel entitled MAD COLIN (my first one since the three Mangel books). I started out wanting to tell a story about the real Mad Colin, but it kind of shifted (as these things always, ALWAYS do) until all I was left with was the name. But the name really works for it, if you know what I mean. (Hopefully you will see this book some day soon.)

It made me think of writing. Nearly every piece of fiction I start is grounded in reality. A real person, event, place, or (usually) all three. But you set out to use those real things in your story, maybe tell the story how it truly happened, and you realise you have no control. The story takes over. Those reality guys are not your characters at all. Your characters are different people entirely, and if you try to bend them into the shapes of the reality guys, it ain't gonna work.


There is one character in DEADFOLK and FAGS AND LAGER who is real, right down to the name, and what you see there on the page is exactly what you got in real life 20 years ago. I tried to make him different in some way but he just wouldn't budge. Not even his name. Stubborn bastard.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Let's be careful out there

The "Charley says" series of public service films are legendary. Shown on British TV in the 70s, they featured a wise cat (Charley) who warned kids not to do stupid things like setting themselves on fire with a box of matches, drinking a bottle of vodka, knocking over your dad's bottle of light ale, or hanging around with strange men. 30 years later many of those dangers have disappeared. Kids these days carry lighters, for example. And light ale is only found at larger branches of Tesco. But strange men are still a very real and present danger, and kids would do well to listen to Charley's warnings about climbing into their cars. However, Charley is gone.

But all is not lost.

This is a Hoff world, remember.

[A nod to Mrs Anastasia Banks.]

Monday, July 10, 2006


Isn't this natural? I mean, why is everyone jumping to condemn? Zidane has spent his football life holding back, staying cool, keeping his head. Minutes to go in a game - his final game - that is destined for stalemate (penalties are a sordid affair and no way to go out). Matterazzi provokes him and for once Zidane thinks "Well, fuck it. Nothing to play for now so I'll just turn around here and show that fucker..." Jesus, it wasn't even like he butted the guy's face. It was the ram of an incensed Billy goat. And, come on, it was beautiful, wasn't it?

As for all those who are going on about kids watching the game and what it will say to them... what do you think it will say to them? That you win games by crazy goat tactics? No - that you get sent off for it and do not win the World Cup. A guy takes issue at something and there is a moment of violent retribution. Let the kids see it. It's the way of the world. They'll be seeing worse.

Zinedine Zidane - STILL A HERO.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Monday, July 03, 2006

Chandelier Hoff

AP via New York Times:

LONDON (AP)-- Former ''Baywatch'' star David Hasselhoff had surgery after severing a tendon in his right arm in an accident in a London gym bathroom, his spokeswoman said Friday.

The 53-year-old actor, who played lifeguard Mitch Buchannon on the TV beach drama for 11 years, was shaving at a gym in the Sanderson Hotel on Thursday when he hit his head on a chandelier, showering his arm with broken glass, his publicist, Judy Katz, said.

Doctors operated to repair the injury and Hasselhoff spent one night at St. Thomas' Hospital in central London, Katz said.

'He's fine,' Katz said by phone from New York. 'He's out of the hospital and will resume filming tomorrow.'

Hasselhoff is working on an ad campaign for Pipex, a British internet company, she said.
Hail Hoff, king of kings. If Hoff jumps very high in the air whilst shaving in a London gym, hitting the chandelier, then it was for a reason. Hoffworld is located on a plane far higher than our own, and events that occur there are outside our comprehension. All we know is that they happen for the greater good of humanity and creation.

Thanks to Jenny for spotting this.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bend It

I'm not doing a good job of blogging. I know, I know, I know. Blame it on the world cup. I'm also trying to get a new novel together and it's occupying my thoughts rather. I will blog something soon. Honest. Maybe. No. I mean yes.

Friday, June 16, 2006

There are not really explosive kegs between my legs

...just in case you were wondering. I mean, I haven't posted for over a week, and for all you know I might have blown myself up, with those dangerous kegs nestled down there.

Did you know that I live between the M5 motorway and the Malvern Hills? Look out one side of the house and you see the snaking panorama of those hills. The other, and it's the motorway. I consider this of significance. The M5 motorway is the main arterial road that takes you from Cornwall to Birmingham (that is to say, from heaven to hell). The Malvern Hills are like the last ramparts between the East and the West (or England and Wales, if you're looking at an old map). They inspired Elgar to write all that music. You look at them and you just know there is some kind of energy inside them. People who live on them... believe me, there are some strange people up there (especially in West Malvern). There's a theory that the hills inspire creativity (see Elgar), but if you get too close, you get madness.

Just East of them there used to be Powick Hospital, which for years was called Worcester Pauper Lunatic Asylum. My mum worked there when she was young and, going by the stories she's told me, it was exactly what you imagine (eg: escaped madmen roaming the countryside). Was it such a good idea to put them all so close to those hills? Maybe not. Then again, perhaps all those crazies who live on the hills are just the escapees they never found?

I live at just a nice distance from them hills, ta very much. The M5 motorway, I dunno what that inspires. It's nice to see though, all those stressed commuters stuck in that time/space warp while I'm chilling in my back garden with a beer and a book.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

There are explosive kegs between my legs

I seem to be forever posting here just to knock off the last post, which has become embarrassing. (For the record, I don't wear those trainers with those trousers usually. I was just... ah, never mind.) Anyway, the new issue of BULLET magazine is now out there and raising hell, like a class when the school bell rings. Issue #6 features stories by Ray Banks, Al Guthrie, Chris Morrow, and many others. I officially declare BULLET the best fiction mag in Britain. I strongly urge you, dear lover of sweet lies on the page, to go and buy it (or place an order). The mag has style, the mag has grace, Rita Hayworth gave good... Er, I mean the mag has great stories, and is on a mission. Get on the Bullet Train right now.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Llanelli Confidential

Congrats are due to Robert Lewis, whose debut THE LAST LLANELLI TRAIN has been shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction (bit of a mouthful that). I really hope he wins, because the other nominees look mostly dull (though, predictably, famous), so keep your fingers crossed for him. Readers of this blog will know Robert from the little "tour" we did last year, touting our dubious wares. To jog your memories, here's a shot of me and him at the Port Eliot Festival, singing 'OK Computer':

Other big congrats go to Ray Banks and Jenny Davidson, who have both scored big on the deal front.

So, yay!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Smiths

With great pleasure I announce that my story SWEET AND TENDER HOOLIGAN is going to be in the Smiths-themed anthology PAINT A VULGAR PICTURE (edited by Peter Wild and due from Serpent's Tail some time). The idea of the antho was to take a Smiths song and use it as inspiration for a story, using the title. I think I came up with one of my best stories. Look out for other music-themed anthos from The Fall and Sonic Youth.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

(Don't) Paint It Black

Web pages that have pale text on a dark background... Am I the only bod on the web who just cannot get along with that? Nothing aesthetic, purely the fact that my eyes go funny and I get a headache after reading them for a few seconds or more. Is that just me? We're not meant to read stuff that way, surely. It goes against nature. What I do (because some of you bastards out there are guilty of this) is I copy the text and paste it into notepad, where I can read it in more civilised environs. You see the lengths I go to, just so you can have a cool dark background? You see what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass? (I know, I know... wrong photo.)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Fags, Fog, and Flesch

Good news for potential readers of FAGS AND LAGER who are not confident in their reading ability: Amazon.com has given it a readability "Fog index" of 5.5. That is good. It scores well also on the "Flesch" and the "Flesch-Kincaid" indices, meaning that it is in the top 4% of all books, readability-wise. Less intelligent readers will also be cheered by the news that only 3% of the words are complex, which puts it in the top 3% of "simple" books. And that's not all...

Clean-living, pure-minded punters will be cheered that the blameless word "bit" occurs a whopping 327 times, trouncing the paltry 201 occurrences of "fuck", which is a nasty word. (However, as a fair man I should also reveal that all permutations of "fuck" total 567 occurrences, which might be of possible concern.)

So what does this mean? This means good news for you, the potential punter. It is safe to take the leap, and dive into the world of FAGS AND LAGER. And if that's not enough, bear in mind that FAGS AND LAGER is the number one bestselling book with "fag" in the title, beating FAG HAG by a country mile (at time of press).

Turn that bloody blimey space invader off

Read some superb stuff lately. BUST by Ken 'n Jase is a pure miracle. I say that as someone who has never truly believed that collaborations can work. OK, so I was blown away by THE TALISMAN as a teen, but since then I've not really seen much else... until BUST.

But wow, does it work. Although the book is set in Starr's usual New York territory, the cool thing is that the writing personalities of both authors come out, with no visible seams. At no stage are you aware of who is writing what bit, you're just throwing yourself into this tear-jerking, heart-warming* story of a forbidden passion between two starred-crossed lovers, Max and Angela, whose bid for freedom is ruthlessly thwarted at every turn by a bloodthirsty Irish zen-master and a gun-crazy psycho in a wheelchair. Always the same: love blossoms, mayhem steps in. Ain't it a shame. Buy the book and read all about it. Not sure? Maybe Entertainment Weekly can persuade you.

And then there's Paul Meloy, whose short stories quite simply remove me from the face of this planet of ours. Meloy lives and writes in the hinterland between dreams and reality**, which is the perfect place to set up a desk and typewriter, if you ask me. Reading one of his stories is like getting a beautiful kick in the subconscious. Of course, I'm teasing you. This is a guy, one of the best writers in the world, who has nothing published in book form. (Most of his stories so far have come out in TTA. It's well worth tracking down back issues down just for the Meloy material.) But that will change one day. Oh yes, you will know about him in time. And remember: you read it here first. When you finally discover the awe-inspiring visions of Paul Meloy you can come back here and thank me. And buy my books.

* Anyone who reads this blog will know who Starr and Bruen are, and that they are not romance authors (in the conventional sense), and that I am talking shit here.

** Cambridge.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I See a Red Door

This is just to get the word "anus" off the top of the page. Nothing much else to say, really. I'm at the "between novels" stage right now. I've got ideas staggering around my head like homeless drunks, rummaging through old memories, looking for something usable. Soon I'll be all tooled up and psyched up and running at the first page, my crack team of homeless drunk commandos behind me, screaming "We're goin' in!"

Friday, May 12, 2006

Anus Linguistics

The eye-catching title of this post is in honour of the person who, earlier today, plugged it into a google search. How he found my site from it, Lord knows. I only hope he found what he wanted. Why am I assuming it's a "he"? In my experience, it's mostly females who study languages.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Royston Blake, a lone crusader in a dangerous world

People have sometimes asked me who would best play the role of maniac doorman Royston Blake, should any of the "Mangel Trilogy" ever make it to the silver (or small) screen. For me, that is a silly question. It's obvious. There is only one actor capable of this role, and any casual reader of the books would know that. David Hasselhoff.

However, it seems that the Hoff will be tied up for a while with more important things. But that's OK. Mangel will wait. Blake will be the role of Hoff's life, and it's not going anywhere.

Hoff is a work of art, by the way. He exists on a plane of his own, independent of any earthly projects he may have touched, such as Knight Rider, Baywatch, or The Love Boat, or Fags and Lager. Hoff is a work of art. Hoff IS art. Art transcends space and time and reaches an ethereal dimension wherein dreams are born and truths are known. This is Hoff. Hail Hoff.

Monday, May 08, 2006

And when they met, it was Murda...

I am proud to tell you that a new short story of mine, entitled FIVE BAGS OF BILLY, will be in issue #2 of MURDALAND. This new mag has been getting a lot of buzz around the place, and will debut later this year. The line-up is under-wraps but I managed to get editor Cort McMeel drunk (via email) and sat back while he reeled off an eye-watering list of names. Not just big names, but interesting names. Ah, I wish I could tell you more, but if I do I'd have to watch my back. Keep an eye out for a new website for the mag coming up soon, which should give you a bit more of a preview. In the meantime check out Cort's "mission statement":

Currently, the predominant "mystery" magazines are two lame, staid, old fogey establishment publications: Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Both are put out by the same publisher and stuck in a timewarp of 1950's schlock. They even have mystery crossword puzzles catering to nuns living sober lives in the cornbelt.

Murdaland will not be kin to this kind of writing or experience. More risk taking in nature, possessing the kind of vision and rebellious attitude as such rogue presses as Olympia (Naked Lunch, Burroughs), our mission will be to free American crime fiction from the cage of civility where it now rots. Murdaland is a beast of three parts: part literature, part rabid dog, part sad whiskey shot spilled on the barroom floor. The final result will be in the tradition of crime writer David Goodis (Shoot the Piano Player), as he was once described by Kerouac: "the poet of the losers."
Looks like I'll fit right in there. Hey, I'm on a short-story roll here. I've got them queued up for MURDALAND, BULLET, BEST NEW NOIR, and THE FLASH. I've got one more to write before I start my next novel, and I'll announce it here if it turns out good. Why am I crowing about this? Because before this year you'd have to go back to 2001 to find my last short. So I guess it'll be 2011 before my next flurry.

Pig Sounds

Could you resist a Belgian/French movie with the tagline "Royston Vasey meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre"? No, nor could I. So I bought it and went home and watched it. End result: CALVAIRE (English title: ORDEAL) is the best film I've seen in a long time. I'm going to have to get a few more miles on it before I get a proper handle on it but at first view (to someone like me) it has so much.

A small time cabaret singer blows his engine in the sticks and goes for help to a local inn, the owner of which turns out (eventually) to be insane, driven that way by the loss of one "Gloria". From there, no summary would suffice. This film has that fragile, rare quality of being all over the place and yet holding it all together so well. It's weird like Lynch but linear, and tight plot-wise. Obviously writer/director Fabrice Du Welz is a big horror fan, because references to genre classics abound (most notably Texas Chainsaw Massacre - the whole dinner with Grandpa scene). But none of it jars or veers to the generic (OK, maybe the dinner with Grandpa scene just a little). The dreary backwoods setting of Southern Belgium is made for this kind of movie. Tim Burton couldn't have made it better with five years and 50 million dollars. Plus it contains that all-important ingredient in a backwoods horror movie: pig sounds. Lot of pig sounds, some of porcine origin, others not.

Just watch this movie. And prepare yourself for the music/dancing sequence.

Oh, and the director interview. One of the most entertaining I've come across. Fabrice Du Welz is so into his work, and manages to point out the fabric of the film without dispelling the mystery (as so many directors manage to). But why has he been involved with nothing since Calvaire? I want to see what else the guy can come up with.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

He knows so much about these things

Please check out Ray Banks' first column at Mystery Circus. True to form, Banks goes straight for the jugular question of British crime: Why is so much of it shit? And he answers it, in his non-resolutory kind of way. Anyone who says "I don't think we have enough Edward Bunkers in Britain" is, quite simply, barking up the correct tree. Banks is the harbinger of doom for the middle-class monopolisation of crime fiction in the UK. He is the jumped-up pantry boy who never knew his place, thank fuck. Someone give him column space in one of the nationals. (Sorry John R.)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Meat of dubious provenance

I really like this review of FAGS AND LAGER. Not for what it says, but the way it says it. Check out some of the other stuff at Reflection's Edge. Looks like a nice place.

Apparently FAGS AND LAGER has just gone on sale in the US, so you hopefully you'll be able to pick it up over there somewhere. Check out some other reviews if you're in two minds.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Two Decades of Venom

Happy 20th birthday to Serpent's Tail. Not sure when the exact day of it is, but last night was the party so it must be around now. Great party, BTW. Very Serpent's Tail.

An interesting point was made by either John Williams or Stella Duffy (who both gave little speeches to honour ST), I forget which. Pete Ayrton is one of the few remaining bone fide publishers. By "publisher" I mean a guy who selects his list according to his own taste. Of course he has his editors (most notably John), but everything goes through Pete (15th most "powerful player" in publishing?), which is why this independant publisher has been able to survive and thrive in today's corporate book world. The role of "publisher" used to be a much stronger one, with guys like Jonathan Cape, Victor Gollancz, and John Murray giving their names to their lists (which survive today, of course, albeit in disembodied form). So really Serpent's Tail could be known simply as "Peter Ayrton".

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Bollocks

Every now and then I read a book and it reaffirms the possibilities. The things that you can do with the novel format, the kind of risks you can take. I only come across about one a year. And I need them. Without them, these little reminders of why I'm doing this at all, I might as well give up. There have been many of these books over the years. First of all they got me into reading, then they showed me that I could never be a writer, then they showed me that I could be a writer, then they showed me how I could carry on being a writer. Some are big, famous books. Some are unassuming and seemingly of little consequence. As long as they hit me somewhere, or make my eyes widen a bit, it doesn't matter.

Matt Haig's THE LAST FAMILY IN ENGLAND did both.

It's hard to say why this novel works. It's easy to say why it shouldn't work. The narrator is a dog, for fuck's sake. A black Labrador. Like all good Labradors he is an adherent of the "Labrador Pact", a treaty which places duty and the (human) family above all else, while other breeds (led by those irresponsible Springer spaniels) have abandoned themselves to the anarchic pursuit of pleasure. This is a great idea. Dogs are bloody everywhere, for God's sake. Why hasn't anyone thought of transposing a political ideology onto them before? OK, maybe they have. But it's the other stuff that elevates this book. It's the creeping agony of watching a family disintegrate from within, and taking it all from the loyal Lab's anxious POV.

Ah, shit, there's so much to recommend about this book. Can I use the term dog noir? If so, this is dog noir. It's a lot else besides that, but if you look at the bare requirements of noir this has them all. And a talking squirrel. Despite all this, the book does not come across the slightest bit whacky. A little over over-cute at times, but you forgive that. You're a Labrador, and you have to forgive every human failing. No, THE LAST FAMILY IN ENGLAND (first published in 2004 - I'm always late with these things) is not whacky. I probably come across as whacky in the way I'm talking about it, but it ain't.

Outrageously inventive, yes.

By the way, this book came to me via an unsual (and probably unprecedented) route. My mum gave it to my wife, raving about it. My wife raved about it and gave it to me. At this point, I usually get suspicious and steer clear, but for some reason I gave in. And now here I am, raving about it and giving it to you.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Turkey Lurkey

Hey, I'm still here. I went to Turkey for a week. It was great, other than the last night when my son puked a bucketload down my shirt. Serious projectile stuff, carrot chunks ricocheting everywhere. He's alright now.

Other experiences were infinitely better, such as the reading of Ray Banks' lager-fuelled SATURDAY'S CHILD. Although I was kind of looking forward to getting out of England for a while, Banks carried me back to the more squalid corners of Manchester and Newcastle... and I loved it. He writes about the kinds of people and places that I like reading about (ie: losers and shit-holes), and does so without flinch or compromise. This is a full-on bollocks-out thriller without all the airbrushery that you normally get. And the entirety is embued with a noir as thick as two-day-old motorway espresso. Roll on more Ray Banks books. This country needs HIM.

Incidentally, I followed SATURDAY'S CHILD with Hemingway's THE SUN ALSO RISES. Between those two books, believe me, that is A LOT of sauce getting sunk on the page. The Hemingway was also of interest to me because I know all the locations pretty well, except Pamplona. I was all set to head down there for the bull run in 1992, but something happened to thwart my crazy plans. I forget what, but it probably involved Hemingwayesque/Banksonian amounts of drink. For the best, I've no doubt.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I put every damn pipe in this neighbourhood

I've had a short story accepted for BULLET (a superb magazine which is British, print, and crime - sadly a rare trio of qualities these days). My story is called KING SHIT, and I had a fine old time writing it.

Congratulate, if you will, Bullet regular Mr Raymond Banks, who has achieved an eye-watering level of success in having his books SATURDAY'S CHILD and DONKEY PUNCH taken up by the big hitting US publisher Harcourt. While you're congratulating him, buy this.

And for anyone who wants to play the quote game (hey there Ana), check the title. Another piss easy one, I'm sure.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"I got a rash on my ass so bad I can't hardly sit down"

Just be clear, I haven't really got a rash on my ass. Or anywhere else, right now, to my knowledge. I just wanted to float that quote. Anyone name it? Sure you can.

In other news, I'm still here. It's cold. I've just written THREE short stories, which makes me a short story writer again. It's pissing down with rain out there. The History of Violence is an ACE film. I got a rash on my ass... Ah, no.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ghost in the Capri

For a while now, amongst people who I actually have face-to-face communication with (and who know I write these books), a debate has been raging. (OK, not really raging. Breathing?) It's about the cover of KING OF THE ROAD. Go ahead, have a look at it and see how many people you think are in the car:

One, right? The driver. But what about a back seat passenger? Is there a woman sitting behind him or not? Every time I look at it I have a different opinion on this. Either there's a woman there (quite an attractive one, I must say), or just a bunch of random reflections and glints that create that impression. Or...

Look, I've told them. 'Ghosts don't exist,' I say. 'This ain't Scooby Doo, mate, this is KING OF THE ROAD, hailed in The Times as "a great mystery", lauded in The Grauniad as "gloriously funny stuff", proclaimed in The... Hey, wake up!'

But then I look again at that cover, and I wonder...

Friday, March 31, 2006

News from the hinterlands

After a gap of nearly five years, I've managed to write a couple of shorts stories. At least one of these will be published some time soon (in BEST NEW NOIR from Point Blank Press, which will feature (and I quote) "original stories from Ken Bruen and Charlie Huston [as well as reprints from many others]. And a poem (Donna Moore). And two stories under 500 words, for people with poor concentration". Speaking of which, I also nailed two flash stories - one already up at el Tribeo's Flashing in the Gutters (damned if I can locate it, though), the other for the forthcoming THE FLASH anthology.

David Veronese is a wild, transgressive, and dangerously overlooked novelist. How come there has been no follow-up to 1994's JANA? We want something else, Dave.

Paul Meloy is the best writer of short stories in Britain. Possibly the world. Probably the world. I'd bet money that he'd top the list for the whole of creation, if only we could measure such a thing. Find his stories in the Third Alternative. We all have an imagination, but it's about how purely you can tap it, and Meloy lays it down uncut. Temper that with his gift for cranking up the pace, and you have stories that have the effect of simultaneously snorting cocaine, tripping on acid, and experiencing a spiritual epiphany. This man will have one hell of a collection out sometime soon, let me tell you. He'd better, anyway. I'll do myself if I have to.

I've run out of decent whisky. Shit.

At the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival (July 20-23), on the Friday, I'll be doing a panel on "Unique Voices" alongside Stella Duffy, Shane Maloney, and Marcel Berlins. Check their website shortly for all the other great events they're doing.

My daughter Elodie is getting into pre-Monsters Bowie. Duncan is still stuck on Iron Maiden, however.

Just where are the hinterlands? "Remote and undeveloped area", the definition goes. Etymology: Ger. Hinterland, from hinter "behind" + Land "land". Looks like they're in Herefordshire, then.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Catch me if you can, cos I'm an England Man"

I don't understand. OK, I understand the concept of the World Cup Song, which gets the nation singing along and supporting the team. But why choose the shittest band on the entire planet to sing it? I mean, does anyone actually NOT hate Embrace? Would anyone NOT like to destroy them by dropping a huge boulder on top of them while they're "performing"? Or maybe we could build an enormous wicker man, pop them inside (bound and gagged) with some chickens and a couple of sheep, and sacrifice them to Tom Waits?

Why can't we just have "This Time (We'll Get It Right)" again? Or we could steal "I Have A Dream" off Scotland? It's not as if they need it.

In other news, I've found some photographs from Left Coast Crime in Bristol.

Friday, March 24, 2006


And it's not the car on the cover of DEADFOLK that I'm referring to, which is a Vauxhall Viva (not the Ford Capri 2.8i you would expect). No, it's the Spanish word I'm talking about here, which means... I dunno. Maybe it just means "Vauxhall Viva"? Which makes "Viva Espana!" a bit puzzling. But no, I am joshing you just a tad. I've done enough knocking around the Euro scene to know that viva means "live!", or something. Which is a bit strange, when you think about it. Fancy going up to someone and saying "Oi you, live!" You can see where the phrase might come in handy (if you worked for the Samaritans, for instance), but even so.

Anyway, that was your preamble. I just wanted to talk about the Spanish edition of DEADFOLK, which they called GENTE MUERTA. I got a copy in the post yesterday and, wow, it's a fine object. Kudos to Factoria De Ideas for putting out such a lovely book. I know they got it out pretty sharpish to bolster their "Black Street" line of books, and I really hope it sells a few for them. So if you're reading this and you'r Spanish, and you don't understand any English, go here and buy the book. OK? Or go into a Spanish bookshop. What do you mean, "que"?

Ah, Spain... Did I tell you the story about when I went out drinking in San Sebastien and got lost, and was later woken up by two irate coppers on a park bench? (As in I was on the bench, not the coppers. It would be pretty odd if it was the other way around, wouldn't it?)

So, GENTE MUERTA is a lovely book, and nestles up there on the shelf, next to THE TRILOGY.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Junior Playlist

I accosted my two children the other day and demanded to know what their favourite song is. I was expecting something from Mary Poppins, or maybe some awful sugary pop song. But no, these infants surprised me with their maturity. My daughter, aged 6, went for "Streams of Whiskey" by The Pogues. Not bad, I thought. Getting in touch with her celtic roots, whilst showing a healthy deferred interest in a legitimate beverage (ie: she did NOT choose "Streams of Alcopops"). The boy, aged 4, was equally impressive, narrowing it down to "Run For The Hills" by Iron Maiden. Besides being a nascent headbanger, he is taken by the plight of the redskins, chased by the white man from their rightful home (to be fair, I think he's got a mental image of the Abominable Snowman invading a beach of sunburnt English people). So, all in all, I thought they gave the right answers. I tossed them a shilling each and let them go.

Mind you, they were both perilously close to choosing "Communication" by Spandau Ballet, which would have meant no shilling. (But at least it wasn't "True". That would have meant a year-long pocket money ban, suspended until they start receiving pocket money.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

King of the Kongs

I saw King Kong last night. The new one. At least, I could have sworn I did. I spent the first couple of hours of the day thinking "shit, that was one scary film". Then I had some coffee and worked out that it must have been a dream, since I don't recall going to the pictures. But it really was as if I saw an entire movie, and it was Peter Jackson's King Kong. Only, I was in it. I was the lead role. And the story was way different from the original b&w version, which I have always loved. In my version, Kong was a real bastard. He was a bad gorilla, chasing me all over the place (sort of a fictional city encompassing aspects of many places I have lived over the years, as usual), turning over cars, ripping off roofs (rooves? Ah, I hate English sometimes), and just being a big black bastard. (Can I say that? Come on, we're talking about a large animal with black fur, OK?) And to make matters worse, he knew. I don't know what he knew, but I knew that he knew it. And it was about me. He knew my weaknesses. And somehow that was worse than the threat of getting crushed and eaten by him. But I did OK for most of the film, and managed to keep ahead of him. Right at the end, though, when I was walking around in some sort of indoor municipal swimming pool that had no water in it, he appeared behind me, and I knew I was cornered. That's where the film ended.

Has anyone here seen the Peter Jackson movie? Does it go something like that?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Left Coast

Yep, I was there. Due to the constraints of real life I probably only saw about half of it, but I had a great time. This was my first "con experience", and if they're all like this in some way I'll defo be along to more.

It was superb to finally meet Allan Guthrie and Donna, Ray "the Truth" Banks and Ana, Sarah Weinman, Kevin Wignall (in disguise), John Rickards (those two have identical hair, believe or or not), Russel McLean (nice coat), Jason Starr, Donna Moore, (I really didn't intend this to sound like an Oscar speech), Maddy Van Hertbruggen, Adrian Magson, Pat Mullan, McKenna Jordan and David Thompson, Martin Edwards... There are others I met who I just can't remember the name of, or couldn't hear it when I asked. I've got a problem listening to one voice in a crowded and noisy room, and it becomes a bit embarrassing when you have to keep saying "What was that?" four or five times. There comes a point when you just have to give up and say "Oh, right. Nice name" and get on with it.

Even greater than meeting those guys were the folks who came up to me when they didn't have to, to get a book signed or just to say hello. I'm incredibly grateful for those, and to anyone who came to the two panels I did (especially the first, which I moderated).

Ah, those panels. One of them was great. Donna Moore moderated it smoothly and with great aplomb, and the other panelists (Al, Ray, and Jason) revealed themselves as natural entertainers in the Bruce Forsyth mould. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and I certainly did. Then there was the other panel, which I actually moderated. All I can say is thanks to Greg Rucka, David Lawrence, Peter James and Catherine Aird for keeping things going. And Greg - sorry I kept going on about your comics, rather than the Atticus Kodiak and "Queen and Country" series. I just couldn't get the word "comics" out of my head. I think I might even have asked Catherine if she'd ever written any. Or read any. Or just thought about comics in any way.

Congrats to Tony Broadbent for winning the Bruce Alexander Award and Peter Guttridge for the Lefty (like they'll ever read this). FAGS AND LAGER was up for a Lefty but, hmm, it didn't win. Apologies for those near my table who caught shards of broken glass, and to the staff who had to clean all the red wine off the wall. I've calmed down now. You can let go of my arm, really. I'm not going to throw anything else.

Well done to Myles Allfrey, Adrian Muller and co for organising it all.

Jesus, why am I still writing this? There were some people who I intended to "approach" but never got around to it. Stuart McBride was one of these. He probably would have spotted a nutter coming and made off (as did Jeffrey Deaver) , but I recognised him from his blog, and meant to go over but couldn't shift my arse from the comfy sofa. I was also going to have a word with Peter Guttridge, and ask him if I could just hold his blue glass Lefty award for a few seconds. But after the ceremony, when they'd let me out of the secured room, I had this strange electronic device around my neck that induced debilitating head pain whenever I came within ten feet of him. And I was going to say hello to Lee Child, and maybe swap suaveness tips. Sorry, Lee, you'll just have to stumble along as best you can until our paths cross again. And there were others. Oh yes, many others that I wanted to meet. But let's face it: I'm just not a good networker. I mean, come on, I'm a writer.

PS: Ray Banks would have you believe the only thing that separates us in height is my big hair. This is untrue, and I will prove this by having a "number 1" the next time we meet (interpret that how you will). And the big hair, I assure you, was down to the extremely windy conditions outside the hotel, and my inability to look in a mirror.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to present the first collaborative artistic effort from the father-and-daughter team of Elodie and Charlie Williams. I think the work speaks for itself.

Left Coast Crime report coming tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Allan Guthrie has finally updated his "magical" Noir Originals site, which includes an interview with myself, conducted by Ray Banks. Thanks a lot to Ray for asking such lovely questions, and to Al for publishing them.

Also make sure you check the interviews with Charles "Hard Case" Ardai, Duane "I can spell it" Swierczynski, and Jason "not Ringo" Starr. And then there's all the other great stuff.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"He would say that, wouldn't he?"

RIP John Profumo, who died last night (at time of writing this). Of course, the above quote was said by "good time girl" Mandy Rice-Davies about Lord Astor, not Profumo, but I'm looking for a way to segue from current affairs to what I really want to blog about, which is the Crime Scene Scotland review of KING OF THE ROAD.

All I can say is, what a clever, perceptive, and insightful chap that Russel McLean is.

(Cue Mandy Rice-Davies.)

Also check reviews of BUST, the deranged lovechild of Bruen and Starr, and SMOKED, the deranged lovechild of Patrick Quinlan and... well, just him on his own.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I'm now fully booked in for Left Coast Crime down the road at Bristol. I'm not there for the whole duration but I'll be there Friday morning until Saturday night, with a short absence on Saturday afternoon. If you're going to the gala thing on Saturday night I'll see you there (I'll be the one looking all unfazed about FAGS AND LAGER being up for a Lefty award). Otherwise I'll be hanging around wherever the drink is. Oh, and there's these two panels:

Friday, 17th of March
4.30 - 5.30

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Peter James
David Lawrence
Greg Rucka
Moderator: Charlie Williams

Saturday, 18th of March
10.30 - 11.30

Ray Banks
Allan Guthrie
Jason Starr
Charlie Williams
Moderator: Donna Moore

Do they rock or not? Look at all those cool guys and chicks I'll be panelling with.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Joe Again

For anyone in the UK who doesn't know what all the fuss is about, I strongly urge you to check out ITV4 on Thursday night (10pm I think), where you will find a rerun of the fight in all its glory. It was an absolute classic demonstration of the sweet science. I've argued Calzaghe's case a few times in the past (invariaby with the kind of fickle, numbskulled tossers who will have jumped on his bandwagon by now) and even I wasn't expecting such heights.

Some time soon I will do a post about writing, or books, or something.

Strange but true

My namesake - Charlie Williams the comedian and gameshow host of the 60s and 70s - was born in Royston (near Barnsley).

Things are not as they seem. Everything is connected.

Let's be careful out there.

Monday, March 06, 2006


KING OF THE ROAD got a great review in Saturday's Guardian. Made my weekend, along with Joe Calzaghe's deconstruction of Jeff Lacy (see below). Also been forwarded some other reviews, such as this one from the Dublin Evening Herald: "Blackly funny and bone-jarringly violent... Williams' latest offering comes across like a heady literary mix between Straw Dogs and Pulp Fiction". You know what? I've never seen Straw Dogs. Been meaning to for years. Wasn't it banned? The Big Issue said: "Even standing on its own this is a sharp and bitingly funny novel that will go down well with fans of the TV show Shameless". I don't know about Shameless, but I'm very glad someone thinks the book can stand on it's own, despite being part of a trilogy. That's what I wanted. Other reviews can be found here. Talking of which, the old website is looking a bit ropey at the minute, with missing files and stuff. Hopefully I'll get it fixed soon.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Hey Joe

Oh, that was worth staying up for.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade"

As reported by Mr Banks, my second novel FAGS AND LAGER has got himself nominated for what's known as a "Lefty" award, which is for crime novels that are funny. Funny ha ha, or funny peculiar, no one is saying. I don't care about that. The last thing I won was an 800m race (2:12), many years ago, and a mere whiff of success is enough to cheer me up for a while. Other nominees include Jasper Fforde and Peter Guttridge, so I'm not preparing an acceptance speech just yet. But it's good news. I've been feeling like shite all week, and this gives me a lift. This glass of Talisker in my hand also gives me a lift.

The winner will be announced at the Left Coast Crime convention, Bristol, March 18th.

Pardon me while I say: "Go on FAGS AND LAGER! Go on my son!"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Flash the Trash

I was looking at Duane Swierczynski's site (I can now spell that without the use of copy and paste, don't you know), just being nosy. And he was talking about a flash story he had up on another site, which I went and enjoyed the hell out of. Now, it just so happens that I wrote a couple of flash stories the other day, limiting myself to 300 or so words. One is for a forthcoming anthology (details coming), and the other (my wife says the better one) is now up on my man Tribe's Flashing In the Gutter site.

Check out my story BROKEN GLASS. It's true, you know. Check out Duane's. Checkout Pat's, Iain's, and everyone's stories. The beauty of these little buggers, see, is that they only take a minute or so to read.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Every Little Hurts

Tescos has been bothering me for quite some time, and I don't know how to stop it. They open all night (or at least until late) so how does a small business compete? The chain quietly spreads it's reach from place to place, setting up camp on the edge of town like a smiley happy alien mothership. Are they friend or foe? Look how cheap they are! And the variety! They must be friend. And now I've got my Tesco club card so I HAVE to shop there every time.

As I say, I don't like it but I don't know how to stop it. Until now. Meet the resistance. And read about them.

(You're right - I'm going all vaguely political this week. I'm sure it's just a phase.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fags no longer

First off, I do not smoke. I used to smoke. I used to buy a packet of 25 Royals in the morning and try to make it last. I started when I was about 13, buying single bennies at the very dodgy cornershop "Lannies" at the top of Sansome Walk. I'd steal them off any grown up smoker visiting the house. On Saturdays we'd go into town and to hang out and get up to no good - the highlight being every time I opened my pack of 10 Number Ones. But now I don't smoke. (Just a cigar now and then.)

However, I don't tell anyone else to not smoke. To tell them to refrain from their habit, however injurious to their health that habit might seem, would be the act of a wanker. A tosser. I protect every man and woman's right to smoke. You want a fag? Have one. Read what it says on the pack, look at how your grandad died, and then go ahead. You want to smoke in a pub? Great! I'd rather drink in a pub full of secondary smoke than bad breath. What? You want to ban smoking?

You want to make it ILLEGAL to puff in a pub, restaurant, or club?

Let's have a look at nightclubs. Who goes to clubs? Young people. Or old people who don't know they're old. Both groups know what they're getting when they go to a club. In most cases, a three-hour dance workout is not the main draw. They're after inebriation, sex, fighting, class A drugs, and staying out late. These guys, what they are not interested in is perfect health. Someone goes into a club and complains about the smoke, what do you do? You laugh, that's what. You piss in their drink when they ain't looking.

You want to make smoking ILLEGAL?

(Hey, I was kidding about the pissing in the pint. Someone did that to me once, and... Well, no, that's not how it happened. I was "mine-sweeping", which entails staking out an unattended pint of beer in a club and then stealing it. Someone cottoned on to what we were doing. Bastard.)

Let me just say, to all those who point up the health risks of passive smoking: Have you looked at the other risks around you? You say your right to inhale clean air is violated because you walk into a place and I'm sitting there, smoking? I say my right to inhale clean air is violated immeasurably more by you driving your car.

Leave smokers alone.

Ban cars.

We all die. Smoking is bad for our health. Living is bad for our health. We live in an increasingly shitty and unhealthy world, and banning punters from the bad habit they love best is not going to make one tin shit of a difference to that. You want to make a difference, you benevolent members of parliament who made this wonderful decision on my behalf? You really want to make things better? Stop destroying education. Get rid of the stupid fucking national curriculum. Let teachers do their job. If a school is doing bad, help that school. But don't ruin the ones that are doing OK.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Former Informer

I don't know if anyone noticed, but the Mangel Informer website (thisismangel.com) is no more. I don't know when it disappeared. They asked me to renew the domain but I didn't bother. Why should I pay for something I already own? Stupid bloody rules. People just trying to skim a buck everywhere you turn, bla bla...

Anyway, that's not the real reason I didn't renew. I truth, I think it was a failed experiment. Although it got a bit of initial attention because it was a fairly original idea, I'll have to agree that my web skills are just too crap to pull it off probably. So, really, it wasn't worth the effort. Faced with the prospect of updating it for KING OF THE ROAD, I just couldn't do it. I've got no time. The walls are closing in on me. Help.

However, I plan to ressurect Keith and Danny at some point... maybe via their FrotSoft business venture, maybe not.

Monday, February 13, 2006

High on crack, totin' a machine gun

Nice little review of KING OF THE ROAD from Marcel Berlins in The Times this weekend (which includes the snippet):

Royston Blake is a boastful, aggressive, foul-mouthed, psychopathic hard-man of the utmost political incorrectness, a failure at everything he does but an indomitable believer in his own cleverness and sex appeal. He's also a careless multiple killer (though insistent that it was never his fault). In short, a thoroughly unpleasant and dislikeable character.

Why, then - this is a great mystery - is it so enjoyable to read about him?

Why do people say such mean things about Blakey? I honestly do not know. However, if you're like me and you come from the hopelessly obscure world of the horror small press, coverage like that is pure gold dust. Thank you Mr Berlins.

Friday, February 10, 2006

War Beer

Kane on the left, Williams on the right. Click for the full glory
The launch for KING OF THE ROAD was pretty good last night. As book launches went it was probably not in the "legendary" bracket. If Chuck Palahniuk or Ian Rankin had a book launch, it would not be like this. They would have adoring fans and celebrity guests and queues around the block. And champagne and balloons. And cocaine and high class hookers. And an after-launch party at The Ivy, or something. But hey, they're them and I'm me. We didn't have the hookers and coke but we had wine and little crunchy things, which could conceivably have been heavily disguised rocks of crack if you were tripping hard and deep into the realms of psychosis. No A-listers attended but Steve Kane turned up, who is quite well known in the Bishop's Stortford area, I gather. And who needs The Ivy when you've got The King's Head, with it's wide range of peanuts and crisps and its "war beer", as it was known?

Many thanks to Ben and Maz and Sarah and everyone else at Ottakars. Anyone in Worcester, go an buy a book from them! (KING OF THE ROAD is up there in the "crime" section, by the way. Ahem.) And thanks to everyone who came, if you should by chance find your way to this here blog. And Steve, I've forgotten what that record was called.

(Note to self: if you find that most of your audience consists of women from the local book club, try to choose a passage to read that features slightly fewer swear words and crude sexual references. Just a thought.)

Next event: Left Coast Crime. I'm doing a couple of potentially momentous panels there which I'll blog about shortly.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Hi. This is The Hoff, and my pet eagle, guest-blogging for Charlie Williams. As you all know, today is the day. KING OF THE ROAD hits the streets. In Malibu, everyone knows that I'm king of the road, but in Mangel it's Royston Blake, and this final book in the Mangel trilogy picks up the story as he leaves mental hospital. We all get a bit mentally fragile sometimes, so let's try not to judge Royston too much. Actually that's not true - YOU all get mentally fragile sometimes, but the Hoff does not. The Hoff is different. Just look at my career... Night Rider - no one thought I'd work again after that came off the air. Baywatch - again, I single handedly resurrected myself as an icon for the new millenium in the light of that show's demise. Communism - everyone knows how I dismantled that unjust regime in East Germany and imposed Western Democracy, Hoff-style.

Anyway, KING OF THE ROAD is launched today. Here's a picture I took of Ottakar's in Worcester, a great book store which will be hosting the "launch" this thursday. I'll try to make it but I can't promise anything. The Hoff promises nothing.

Also listen out for Charlie on the airwaves later today, when he undergoes a top celebrity interview at 2:30 pm on BBC Hereford & Worcester - a great local radio station. But come on, are you really going to go to all that trouble? Why not just kick back and relax with this great video of my classic hit HOOKED ON A FEELING?

Monday, February 06, 2006

One day I'll fly away

I went around Worcester last night, looking for places to post flyers (see previous post). This town has changed so much since I grew up here. Gentrification - I hate that word. It's not a proper word, and I hate using it. It sounds like shit, looks bad, and means something pretty awful. It makes you think of "gentry" - posh folks straight out of Jane Austen going around in their horse and carts, saying "I say, Marmaduke, did you see how that fellow wore his cravate? Shocking. Quite shocking..." But what the heinous word really means is "out scum". It means "we value our property prices and our urban ambience conducive to retail consumerism". It means "money".

The other thing it means is that there is nowhere left where you can post a flyer and hope for it to stay there for more than an hour or two. Where are all the boarded-up windows? When I were a lad, as well as sliced loaves of brown bread with bits of gravel in, we had boarded-up orifices all over town, where people put up adverts for gigs, boxing shows, riots etc. It may have ben scruffy but it gave you a window to a more textured underworld to the city. It showed you that not everyone was buttoned up and repressed or just pissed and lairy all the time.

I wanted to add my little flyer to that unpoliced wall of noise.

Anyway, I didn't find it. All I found was "this area is surveyed by CCTV" and "if you post your fucking flyers here, we'll take you to court and financially ruin you". I searched in vain for signs of life - anything that was going on beneath the surface. Nothing. A complete whitewash. This is a pretty town. This is a clean town. This is a mainstream town. This is a town where, if you want to tell the public something, you pay ten grand for a billboard.

So I put up a few flyers here and there. I don't expect them to survive until the morning. Then I drove over to the university and dumped the flyers by the SU notice board. Will anyone give a shit? Who knows? Gotta try.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

King of the flyers

Update to nothing

I am still here. Just letting you know. Nothing blogworthy going on around these parts. Actually plenty of blogworthy stuff, but I'm not blogging it. Maybe if I was a better blogger I would, but I'm not. Ah, if you only knew.

Hey, anyone thinking of coming to the launch of KING OF THE ROAD in Worcester next week, but is shilly-shallying because they think it might all be a big hoax, you should check here (and scroll down a wee bit) for proof. Also notice the strange KING OF THE ROAD cover art here, which is nothing like the real thing. And while you're at it (and in the unlikely event that you haven't already), check out the cover of Raymondo Beyondo's upcoming novel, SPANK MY ASS.