Thursday, December 19, 2013

Charlie's Top 7 Short Stories

I like short stories. Hey, what a coincidence... I have a new short story out! It is called LOVE WILL TEAR US APART and is a cautionary tale about what happens when zombies and romance get mixed up. Seriously. But there's one catch: it's only available for Kindle. Sorry. I know how much you love paper. But hey, this is the way things are going.

To commemorate this event, please accept a list of my all time top 7 favourite (at time of writing) short stories:

In the Hills, the Cities - Clive Barker
Ostensibly horror on account of its inclusion in Barker's Books of Blood, this one starts as an Eastern Euro weird tale and ends up just blowing your mind. With horror 
The Lottery - Shirley Jackson
I think all small communities should read this. Then lay down their stones 
The Swimmer - John Cheever
Has there ever been such a brilliant example of starting in one place and ending up somewhere so utterly different? But really, when you think about it, not going anywhere 
Savannah River Payday - Erskine Caldwell
No short story has hit me with the savagery of casual violence as much as this one from the master of the Deep South 
The Pattern - Ramsey Campbell
Similar to the above by Caldwell, the explosion of violence is both eye-watering and somehow inevitable 
City Fishing - Steve Rasnic Tem
Sometimes you just know things are going to end badly. Especially when there is a dead crow flopping around in the footwell of your car 
The Last Great Paladin of Idle Conceit - Paul Meloy
Meloy proves himself a virtuoso at taking a real life (dead) character and turning it to his own ends (Lenny Bruce). And simultaneously honouring him

If you're going to check out LOVE WILL TEAR US APART (UK, US, Can), please, whatever you do, read it BEFORE any of the above. Thanks.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Author Culpa

Just read on a blog that someone read one of my books and got lost at the end. In other words, he or she does not know how it ended, after investing all that time in reading it. The blogger also adds that he is sure that this is his fault, not mine.

I beg to differ.

Even though a book could only have ended one way. Even though I believed it to be the perfect ending, foreshadowed in several places (including the first line of the book) and summing up a lot of things about how this protagonist's life has gone. Even though my editor loved that ending, recognised its potential ambiguity and worked with me to make it clearer. Even though [insert excuse here]... is not that blogger's fault.

It is the author's fault, every time.

Every time a reader gets lost at the end of a book. Every time they yawn and put it down, switch on the TV instead. Every time they throw it across the room a little too hard, inadvertently hitting that goldfish bowl and causing the poor fish undue mental trauma while it thrashes helplessly on the chic, exposed floorboards. Every time they read the book, like it enough, put it back on the shelf and immediately forget all about it.

Each time one of these little failures happens it is my fault.

If you are a writer and you don't agree, just think of the way books are these days. This isn't the fifties. We don't have a pulp fiction stand on every intersection of every main street of every city. We don't have half the punters on the train to work with their nose in a book (or if we do, it's the same book). We don't have the written page as the premier format of storytelling. We don't have shit, dear author. Least of all a fair chance of making a living out of this gig.

So what do we have?

One opportunity to grab a reader's attention, every time we are lucky enough to have someone pick up our book.

Use it.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Fenton on Fenton

To the untrained eye, Mangel is a soft touch of a place. And Fenton's eye is most definitely untrained. Were he to train it, he might notice that the people of Mangel, though unsophisticated, are bastards. They don't trust you, outsider, but will ride you for all you are worth. And you are worth a lot, right? Waltzing into town in your flash motor, buying up the town's premier piss house in cash. But there's something else you have, isn't there? Something you are hiding. Something they want. But enough about the people of Mangel, let's here from the man himself, "Mr" Fenton...

Club owner
Fave film:
Catch Me if You Can

“Sometimes I wonder how I ended up in such a hellhole. But then I relax, sit back and remember: This is meant to be exile, not a holiday camp. A necessary solution, engineered to cut myself off from my past and live in safety. NO ONE will find me here. That’s the whole point – Mangel is the arse hole of the universe, a tiny little corner that doesn’t even show on the map. OK, so I could have fled to Spain, Thailand, Rio. But something brought me here. And when I saw Hoppers – a fire-damaged shell of a building at the time – I knew. Hoppers is my project. I’m king here, ruling over all these little people who just want to fuck, fight and get drunk. This is my kingdom. As long as my past doesn’t catch up with me.” 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Finney on Finney

I want you to meet Finney. People in Mangel don't have a good opinion of Finney. Due to one or two mistakes he has made in the past, they think he is less than bright. But what he lacks in intelligence, Finney more than makes up for in action. Finney might be a dosser but he is not lazy. He is a doer. Never more so than when Royston Blake needs a hand...

Fave film:
Rocky III

"I ain’t got a brother but you don’t need one when you got a mate like Blakey. Me and him has knowed each other for yonks, going right back  to when we was borned in the ozzie. It’s funny that, how certain folks gets tied to each other and has to go through life together. It can be a pain at times, especially when Blake gets wedded or goes off on one of his schemes. You can lose him for a bit then. But only for a bit. He always comes back, and he always needs my help in the end. See, he can’t do it without me. Like I says, him and me is like brothers. And brothers looks out for each other. Even when they hits you sometimes. Not that I'm complaining about that. Blakey gives you a slap, it's cos you deserves it. He's been on that door at Hoppers for fucking donkeys and seen every kind of cunt, and knows when to let em by and when to school em. I needs a bit more schooling than the average, I reckon. But I'm getting there. One day I'll make him proud of us."


Monday, November 18, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Jess on Jess

We've all met the Muntons. They're the ones who gave you a bill for a new head gasket when all you had was a dodgy fan belt. They're the ones who doorstep you about gardening services while the other slips round the back and nicks your TV. They're the ones who are said to have chopped up that bloke. You know, the one who went missing. Rumours abound about these guys. But are those rumours unfair? Take Jess - maybe people are just afraid of him because he doesn't talk much? Give him a chance, let him talk in a non-threatening, pressure-free environment and I'm sure we'd see a decent guy who is just misunderstood. Let's find out...

Jess Munton
Fave film:
Animal Farm

"I likes my brothers. I likes our van, which you gotta call the Meat Wagon. I likes meat. And I likes my chainsaw. I named it Susan, after a girl I knowed at school. None of the others used to talk to me much at school. Not even teachers. They’d shout at us a bit and say hard stuff to us about maths and that, but no one asked us nothing. Susan did. The girl, I mean, not the chainsaw. She’d ask us what I had for lunch, and what I’d had for tea last night. I’d always say the same thing: meat. Susan liked meat too. And I liked her. I liked her so much and she liked meat so much that I... well, that don't matter. All that matters is I've still got her, in a way. She's right here in my chainsaw."


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: the Stranger on the Stranger

You know that guy who comes into Hoppers and upsets Blake, asking all kinds of questions and suggesting that the door staff are ropey? He's the Stranger. Call him a hitman, call him an outsider version of Blake, call him a "flash cunt from the big city" (As Blake does), call him what the hell you like, but what you can't call him is... erm, I don't know. Shall we just let him explain?

Fave film:
Mission Impossible
“Muppets. That’s what they’re full of, these shit towns like Mongrel or whatever they call it. And they don’t even know it. They’re goldfish, swimming around in a little glass bowl and thinking it’s the whole world. So what does that make me? A shark. A shark in a goldfish suit. Come to slice up all the little fishies and fry 'em up for tea. It's too easy really. But someone has to do it. Get in, do a job and get the fuck out again. but not before I get my jollies. That bird behind the bar at that Hoppers place - she'll do. I saw the way she looked at me when I went in. I bet she's never seen someone like me. Saying that, it's not hard to look the business when I'm stood next to divs like that turnip head bouncer in there. But she can wait. Business first.”


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Mandy on Mandy

When it comes to empowered females, really it comes down to Ripley from Alien, Marge Gunderson from Fargo, Pat Butcher from Eastenders... and Mandy Munton from Deadfolk. But it takes hardship to discover one's inner steel, and Mandy certainly has a lot of that, sharing a house with the three notorious Munton boys. But let's hear her tell it...

Mandy Munton
Fave film:
Thelma & Louise
“I knows there is a world out there. I seen it on telly. I watches it every day, turning on after my brothers goes out in their van. You can fit in five or six different places between hoovering, cleaning, washing and cooking. America, Australia, Scotland... you can travel the planet on that telly. I’ve heard folks around here saying them places ain’t real, that they’ve been invented just for the programs. But I know different. I feel it when I look at the hills, the sun. There’s hundreds of other people under that same sun, and they can’t all be in Mangel. Sometimes I wonder if it’s this town that ain’t real, if it’s God playing a sick joke on us all. Not that I’d say that aloud. I’ve only ever said it to one person, when I were younger. That were Blake, the feller used to work for my brothers when they owned Hoppers. I ain't sure, but I think he understood. There's only one way I'll know for certain, and that's if he ever comes back for me.”


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Lee on Lee

Ah, Lee Munton. Eldest scion of that famous Mangel clan. What happened to you, Lee? Where did it all go wrong? When did you become the bad guy? But maybe you're not? Maybe you're just misunderstood? Hey, I'm sorry but as far as we're concerned, you're Royston Blake's nemesis. Or one of them. Most people in Mangel are Blake's nemesis at one point or other. So go easy on yourself...

Lee Munton
Local businessman
Fave film:
“Our dad weren’t happy about dying. Not cos he were afraid of it, but cos he never wanted me running Hoppers. But it were shite, the way he had it. It were like an old folks home, and he got shite singers and magicians performing some nights. Soon as I took over I kicked the old punters out. And them shite singers. Strippers is what punters wants. And loud music played out of big speakers, not some fucking twats with guitars and tambourines. And it would have worked out, if only I hadn’t let our Baz get involved. It was him who fucked up the books, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t unfuck them. And then there was Blake, who I’d given the simple job of setting fire to the place. Only he could fuck that up the way he did, getting someone killed. But none of them fuck-ups comes even close to the big one – not having no insurance. I still ain’t sure who to blame there.”


Thursday, November 07, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Sal on Sal

Next up in the Deadfolk tour of characters is Sal, Royston Blake's on-off gal. Love her or loathe her, Sal is central in Blake's life, even if he ignores everything she says and doesn't give her a moment's thought unless he needs something...

Fave film:
Dirty Dancing
“I saw that Kimberley from school the other day and she said how well I looked. I were happy about that, because she looked like a rhino herself. No matter what else happens in life, you always have to look after yourself. No one else will. Not even them who says they will, like fellers. They says it but they wants summat else, and when they gets that thing they’re off. That’s why I won’t let a feller tie me down. Not even Blakey, who’s always trying to drag me down the aisle. Not that I won’t, one day. No one better comes along, I’d settle for Blakey no problem. But he does worry me. Sometimes I wonder if he’s a bit damaged in the head, especially when he gets angry and breaks things. But you won’t find me worrying for long. Not with all them other fellers out there.”

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Jonah on Jonah

This time it's one of the, shall we say, peripheral characters from Deadfolk. PC Jonah may not be pivotal to the events that took place in Mangel  during those few days, but he is a stayer. There are few characters who have made it alive through books 1 to 5, and he is one. I just wish he would chill out a bit...

Police constable
Fave film:
Dirty Harry
“They can’t touch me now. None of them, them scumbags who used to think themselves better than me. Who’s better now? Who’s wearing the cloth of authority? See, it don’t matter how many fights you win or lose at school, it’s about what you’ve got up here, in your noggin. And I’ve got it all. There’s nothing stopping me. Alright, so I’m a constable now, but I’m headed for the top. I’ll be running this force before anyone knows it. And where will they be, them wankers from school who thought the world was theirs? In the gutter – that’s where. Especially that Royston Blake. One day he will pay for what he did at primary school. Sometimes I hear a toilet flush and it all comes back to me, and I have to lie down. HE did that. HE will pay. But not yet.”

Monday, November 04, 2013

Meet the Deadfolk: Blake on Blake

Over the next few days, for the pure hell of it, all of the main characters from DEADFOLK will be introducing themselves to you. This is a good thing. You want to meet them. But only through the medium of this blog.

Anyway, first up is the man himself, everyone's favourite small town doorman...

Royston Blake
Fave film:
Rocky III
“You could say Hoppers is the best thing ever happened to me. When I started working here I moved up a few rungs on the career ladder. And it ain’t just about the money – it’s about respect. Fellers started talking to us right, acting polite and not swearing so much. Birds started trying to tap off with us (although, to be fair, things ain’t ever been different on that score). When you looks at it, you see that there ain’t no more important job in Mangel than the one I got. They all wants in Hoppers of a night, and it’s me saying yay or nay. I got total authority here and they all knows it – including the boss. Mind you, there is more to life. I can see meself in one of them nice big detached places out Danghill way, a nice bird in the kitchen and a couple of younguns round me ankles, although they better watch out down there cos I can be clumsy. But that’s the only fault I got, I swear. Which is how come I got to where I am, being the highest community pillar in Mangel. So aye, Hoppers is the best thing ever happened to me. But it goes both ways.”

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


Man, have I been busy. You know that bee, the busy one? That's me. And just like that bee, I can't tell you what I've been doing. It's top secret. This is a secret that is so top that I'm getting dizzy just thinking about it. But it is cool... and I will tell you in time. Don't I tell you everything in time?

Thinking about it, how do you tell something *outside* time? Surely only Scott Bakula can do that?

But I do have news: next month something pretty cool will be coming your way, should you want it. Erm, I can't tell you what it is.

Are you getting annoyed with me? Sorry. Trust me, if I break these vows of secrecy this man will come after me. Just hang in there - gimme a bit of time and I will spill those beans in full.

Meanwhile, how about a book?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Your place is in the bin

Although it's hardly unreserved praise, I got a kick out of seeing this reader review of my little short story collection YOUR PLACE IS IN THE SHADOWS. Of the six stories therein, the review singles out SHITHEAD for the biggest thumbs-up. And do you know what?

That is the only one that failed to get published anywhere else beforehand.

All of the others appeared in either anthologies or small press print magazines. (God, did I love appearing in those things back in the day.) But this one never found a home. And it's not because of the title, because back before I retired it the title was something else. At the time I kind of understood why they were rejecting it (which I won't say here because it might colour your judgement, should you ever read it). But it didn't make me think any less of the story. Sometimes you write something and you're almost crying with satisfaction that you churned out a piece that pretty much resembles that initial vision - and even surpasses it...  but you know it'll be a bitch to sell.

Hey, I sold it now. Or rather I'm selling it:

UK: Your Place is in the Shadows
US: Your Place is in the Shadows
Can: Your Place is in the Shadows

99c/79p. Plus you get those five other fancy pants ones that already got published.

PS: One mag that technically didn't reject Shithead was Psychotrope. That editor was kind enough to send me a letter of unreserved praise, tempered with the news that, alas, Psychotrope was forthwith being consigned to that big magazine rack in the sky.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Free Lunch

Actually I won't be buying you lunch, but I will offer you some free reading reading material instead, which is better. My novella GRAVEN IMAGE and my collection of shorts YOUR PLACE IS IN THE SHADOWS are both going for £0.00 on Sunday 8th September for five days. Americans can get it too (at current conversion rates, that comes up at $0.00 precisely).

UK: Graven Image, Your Place is in the Shadows
US: Graven Image, Your Place is in the Shadows
Can: Graven Image, Your Place is in the Shadows

Dig in.

Friday, September 06, 2013

August charts

Hey, do you like fags? Do you like lager? Good, because FAGS & LAGER (AKA Booze & Burn) was last month's number one seller out of all my books!

  1. Fags & Lager
  2. King of the Road
  3. Deadfolk
  4. One Dead Hen
  5. Made of Stone
  6. Stairway to Hell
A little disappointing for Made of Stone there, pulling up the rear in its year of birth. More effort required there, methinks. Made of Stone, get the hell out there and earn your keep. You want the shame of Stairway to Hell beating you? It can happen, boy - believe me. It's up to you now. It's all about the response.

Erm, what was I saying? Oh yeah - Fags & Lager. Well done to that book, which Metro described as "yokel Tarantino", Birmingham Sunday Mercury called "unputdownable" and Tangled Web hailed as (my favourite quote of all time) "300-odd pages of squalor, f-, s- and c- words, extreme violence and drugs, the odd hint of perversity, monstrous sly humour and all with no redeeming social message whatsoever". 

Have a good month. And if you haven't done so already, consider purchasing Made of Stone. Let's pull it out of the doldrums! This book features Highlander heavenly. I bumped into Greg Widen the other week (he wrote Highlander) and mentioned it to him, and he didn't seem bothered either way about it. Greg, for Royston Blake to be obsessed with a film or TV series is the highest honour affordable in showbiz (thus far awarded to Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, Don Johnson. David Rasche, Dennis Waterman - all the greats).

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bill Gates - Reanimator

Hey, I was in the States last week. Or this week. I forget because I am probably still lagged from jetting over 9 hours of timezone. Yes, I was in Seattle (via Amsterdam, hence the extra hour) at the behest of a small company over there name of Amazon. You might have heard of them. You may have heard negative things about them, things about monopolies and doing the independents out of business and destroying the publishing industry. Well, all I can say is that they know how to treat an author. And if they treat you well too, dear reader, then that's a pretty good deal. Right? See them as the dark overlord if you like, but I can assure you that they are a bunch of bright, imaginative men and women trying to find new and better ways of doing things. And they are book people. There is a new paradigm going on and they are at the heart of it, cutting unseen shapes from the rock-face. Lucky them. Lucky you.

Lucky me.

Oh yes, I love going to America. For one, I like hearing that accent. It is an accent purpose-built for pop culture, and having it around makes you feel like you're on a movie set. But Seattle is a bit different. Not that I have even scratched the surface of the USA, but I can tell an anomaly when I look at one. For starters, parts of it stink. Bad. I am talking urine. Also something unidentified but much worse, over by East Pine St. Whatever that thing is, I don't want to see it. I suspect it is Lovecraftian, and better left untampered with. Seattle is that kind of town. To see the Great God Cthulhu rising from the depths of Lake Washington would not surprise me. Of course, my mind would be scrambled before surprise could even register, but you know what I mean.

Maybe that's what Bill Gates is. Maybe he is one of the Old Ones - the tentacled one itself - returned into our midst under a vaguely human form to entrance us with his DOS and Windows 3.1 operating systems. I saw him while I was there, by the way. I took the advice of author William Lashner and went to a Mariners and LA Angels baseball game, and they trotted him out to do some guest pitching before the game. I'm pretty sure I also saw Kurt Cobain, down by that big totem pole near Pike Place Market. Is that possible? Could Bill Gates have brought him back to some awful semblance of life somehow, using ancient and unthinkable magic? Cobain did appear to have small gills on the side of his neck, so who knows?

Friday, August 02, 2013

I Hear Thunder

I have been neglecting this blog of late, so it's good that from now on I have an excuse to update it at least once a month. Yes, I speak of the monthly book charts. July was good, but not as good as June, which was pretty awesome by Mangel standards. (But hey, Mangel standards are pretty low. There probably isn't even a bookshop in Mangel. But there *is* a tattoo parlour.)

So, without further prattle, and with the thunder and lightning kicking off behind me, here are July's charts:

  1. Deadfolk
  2. Made of Stone
  3. Fags & Lager
  4. King of the Road
  5. One Dead Hen
  6. Stairway to Hell

So that's pretty much no change, other than #1 and #2 swapping. And the fact that I called it "Fags & Lager" instead of "Booze & Burn" this time. Obviously Fags is my preferred title, but titles are overrated anyway. Charles Willeford's THE DIFFERENCE is still the same book if you call it THE HOMBRE FROM SONORA. And a hell of a book.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Hit Parade

Now that I've discovered this books sales thing I can give you the book charts every month, straight from the horse's mouth. (Did someone ever actually get something from a horse's mouth?) Not that I'm hung up on charts or anything. But hey, here they are:

      1. Made of Stone
      2. Deadfolk
      3. Booze and Burn
      4. King of the Road =
      4. One Dead Hen =
      6. Stairway to Hell

Good to see Made of Stone way out in front, where it ought to be in its year of publication. And quite a dog fight there for fourth place, with King and Hen both tied. Stairway to Hell, you need to start performing. They're talking about introducing relegation.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book charts

Dunno if you're interested in these things, but here are the six novels I have published in order of sales (so far this year):

One Dead Hen (2011)
Deadfolk (2004)
Made of Stone (2013)
Booze and Burn (2005)
King of the Road (2006)
Stairway to Hell (2009)

The year in brackets indicates first publication. You might think that the most recent one Made of Stone would be the winner, but things don't work that way with a series. People often want to go in at the start (even though I sweat BLOOD to make sure you can read each of these things as a standalone, dammit!) But hey, I'm more than cool with that. One Dead Hen's dominance can be explained by one or two special offers from the publisher, I think. Stairway to Hell because it's a different publisher with less marketing effort for back-list titles. Also I guess it's going out of print as a paperback (which is sad but comes to us all in the end). (And hey, it's still there for Kindle (US / UK).)

It bothers me a bit that Stairway pulls up the rear. I like that book. Some of the characters from it still rattle around in the semi-deranged corners of my head, and of course I always think of the final chapter when I see Simon Cowell on the TV. But hey, that's book biz. And if anyone at all is buying it and reading it, I'm happy.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mangel Daily Deal

Hey dudes, if you:

  1. are in the UK
  2. are yet to taste the delights of Mangel book #5
  3. own a Kindle
  4. have a spare 99p rattling around in your pocket
...check out the Kindle Daily Deal today (17th June). All you dreams will come true. Some of them anyway. OK, maybe none of them, but you get get MADE OF STONE cheap anyway.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Charlie at the Beeb

Hey, I was on BBC Hereford & Worcester today, talking about Made of Stone and various other stuff with Mike Wyer, who was standing in for Tammy Gooding. Many thanks to Mike for asking the questions, and to listeners for listening to the answers (plus all the ums and ers).

If you fancy a hark yourself, the show is up online for the next 6 days. My bit starts at 36:30, after "The Going Gets Tough" by the great Billy Ocean. Listen out for an exciting trailer for The Voice UK.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Your Place Is In the FREE Section

Hey man, you can get my short story Kindle collection for free this week. It is called YOUR PLACE IS IN THE SHADOWS and features six short stories from the past 13-odd years. Some noir, some weird... ALL worth more than the asking price of £$D1ddly Squ4t. And what do I ask in return, pray tell? Nothing. Only your happiness. And maybe a review. And hey, the other books are for sale (cough).

Yanks get it here, limeys here, canucks here and other nationalities wherever your local Amazon website is.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Opinions are like chickens

A couple of new ONE DEAD HEN reviews on the Zon this week. But these two critics had mixed feelings about their subject matter. This disturbs me somehow. So let's talk to each one in turn and try to understand the problem.
First up, Edwina. Edwina's favourite books include "A Cup of Christmas Tea", "The Clue is in the Pudding" and "The Holy Bible". Some big hitters there, and a lot to match up to. Let's start by getting the formalities out of the way. Edwina, are you a purist or a prude?
"I am not a purist or a prude"
Thank you. So let's move onto the book. If you took into account every book you have ever read (such as "The Breath of God" and "A is for Annabelle: A Doll's Alphabet""), where would you rank One Dead Hen?
"This is the worst book I have ever read."
I see. But surely there was something of worth in it. The plot, maybe? The characters?
"The plot (?) is rather non-existent and the characters should be."
Right. Well, there are some good actions in it, yes? Also this is a series which has been hailed for its inventive use of language. Would you go along with that?
"It is a series of revolting language separated by ridiculous actions."
I'm starting to see where this is going. Time for a personal question. Did you get turned on when reading it? Just a little bit?
"A definite turn off and an author that goes on my short list which actually is quite short containing only his name."
Well, that's something. That short list of yours sounds really exclusive. And I am on it! So Amazon did something right when they published me, yes? I mean, I'm a real club guy now.
"Sorry, Amazon, you blew it on this guy.."
"Oh, yes"
But you gave it one star. That means you liked 20% of this book, doesn't it?
"The one star is because the book is the right height for my coffee cup."
Let's move onto critic #2, Kay Helms. Kay's favourite books include "The Bride of the Wilderness" and "Old Maid's Puzzle (A Quilting Mystery)". So, Kay, what would you say One Dead Hen was about? Would you say it is about the limited life options available to women in oppressive societies?
"This book is more about bad grammar and foul language."
But chapter 28 is about chickens. Did you like that?
"I could not get past the first chapter."
Damn, that is a shame. So you stopped reading? I feel let down by that, Kay. What was your reason for stopping? And make it a good one.
"I had to stop."
Fair enough
Many thanks to this week's literary critics. Next week we talk to another one-star reviewer. Better still, let's talk to a chicken. Let's interview an actual, real life, feathers and beak chicken.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Your Place is in the Shadows

I have put together six of my finest short stories in a little collection for Kindle. It's called Your Place is in the Shadows and is retailing at minimum price.

At first the idea was to get some of my short stuff out there in the hope that it leads people to the longer stuff. But then I read these things again, and I'm not sure how similar they are. Some are crime, some more horror, others kind of sf or slipstream. Some are clearly set in a world similar to Mangel (or Warchester), others clearly elsewhere. The earliest was written way before I even thought about Deadfolk, others way later.

But I'm proud of them all. I have have written plenty of shorts, and I'm only picking what I consider to be the good 'uns for this (and one or two subsequent volumes later this year). Most have been published in mags, anthologies and more recently webzines, others not. And sometimes it's your favourites that don't find a home. In this case (and published here for the first time) it's "Shithead" (based on a card game I came across years ago in France).

If you are a fan of Royston Blake, maybe the story "Punchbag" will reveal a bit of where the old bruiser came from. The main character doesn't have the same dubious charm of Blakey, but he clearly shares some of his appetites. This was first published in the British Fantasy Society's magazine Dark Horizons in 2001.

One particular story I like in this batch is "Some Help From Stanley", featuring a spurned husband who yearns for the family from which he has been usurped. Help comes in the unlikely guise of a phonecall from the late Stanley Kubrick. I consider this my first major sale, hitting the pages of The Third Alternative magazine in 2002, which specialised in horror and weird. But I reckon this story could have just as easily been labelled crime.

See what you think.

Your Place is in the Shadows is on sale in the UK, USA, Canada and everywhere else in Amazon-land.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Charlie interviews Royston

CW: So, Royston Blake, we have a new book out called Made of Stone. Tell us a bit about it.

RB: What this "we" bollocks? You might have your name on the front but it's my fucking story. From now on I wants Royston Blake on the front. My next book is gonna be called "Bastard", and it'll be by Royston Blake. It's about you, by the way.

CW: OK, but tell us a bit about the new one, Made of Stone?

RB: Why don't you tell it?

CW: Well, I've told it already in a couple of places, so maybe it's time for a fresh angle on it. And besides, apparently it's *your* story, right?

RB: What's this "fresh angle" bollocks? I had a mate who cut his thumb off with an angle grinder once. He put it in his lunchbox and took it down the ozzy for em to sew back on. They was able to do it and it recovered no problem, but they done it the wrong way round.

CW: They sewed his thumb on the wrong way round?

RB: That's what I fucking said, ennit? There a parrot in here?

CW: I find that hard to believe.

RB: I'll bust your face.

CW: I hear that Made of Stone concerns a few days you spent running around Mangel with Jock, a Scottish man who runs the burger van in Frotfield Way. How did that come about?

RB: I don't like talking about them times. Some beans you can spill only the once and then you gotta forget about em, cos they'm too traumatical. I spilled em to you once, you writ it down and put it in this fucking book or whatever, now shut the fuck up about it.

CW: But we want people to read it, don't we?

RB: I ain't bothered. People can piss off for all I gives a toss.

CW: Well, I don't share that attitude.

RB: You wouldn't, would you? All you wants is the easy life, sitting in front of your typewriter and clacking out stories that cunts like me have came up with. Not only came up with but lived.

CW: Made of Stone is the fifth book in the Mangel series. You must be proud of that.

RB: I'll tell you what I'm proud of. I'm proud of the time that bunch of wankers from East Bloater came down Hoppers and tried running it. Thirty of em there were, lobbing bottles all over and feeling up Rache and that other barmaid we had then, plus doing other bad wossnames, such as putting their fags out on the floor. And putting "Karma Comedian" on the fucking juke box. What I done next, right, which involved busting each one of their swedes, dragging em out and booting em arsewise into the gutter... *that's* what I'm proud of.

CW: It's "Karma Chameleon", by the way.

RB: You what?

CW: I said... OK, it doesn't matter.

RB: Too right it don't fucking matter. You start correcting my words and I'll start correcting your features, you ugly piece of shite. Eh, is that what you been doing in them books? You been tidying up me vocals and changing bits?

CW: I swear I haven't changed a thing. It's straight from the horse's mouth.

RB: Hang on, is you saying I looks like an 'orse?

CW: Is there any truth in the rumours that the Mangel books will be adapted for TV?

RB: Eh?

CW: You know, like a TV series based on Deadfolk and sequels. Or a mini-series?

RB: I had a Mini once. Some twat had left the keys in her in that car park down Strake Hill. Them fucking things is tiny, I swear. Went over a speed bump and nigh on put me swede through the roof. Plus the doors don't open proper. I almost ended up in the fucking canal, only getting out at the last second. You can still see it down there on a clear day.

You can buy MADE OF STONE here (UK), here (US) or here (Can).

Thursday, April 04, 2013

MADE OF STONE giveaway

Hey, I am giving away copies of Made of Stone to lucky prize draw winners. But there's a catch: you have to be on Goodreads. So get on that thing and sign up for this baby:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Made of Stone by Charlie Williams

Made of Stone

by Charlie Williams

Giveaway ends May 01, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
What's to lose?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Terrible news about Iain Banks. His Wasp Factory certainly opened a door for me in terms of what you can do with books. I rather petulantly went off him a few years ago after reading RAW SPIRIT (no link provided - for your own good), but I went back on him a couple of years later, in search of the mastery of old and finding it.

But this guy is still alive - why am I talking about him like he is dead?? Let's all go on a Banks-fest (I recommend the slightly unsung Espedair Street) while we wait for his next book, wondering if it will have an "M." in it. (No. Strangely this seems significant.)

Funny, he is someone I feel like I have met, although I definitely haven't. And during this imaginary meeting he thought I was a twat. To be fair, I was probably drunk. On whisky.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Right Eye of the Tiger

Short Sharp Interview with me over at Paul D Brazill's place. He talks about Rocky, I talk about Rocky... we all talk about Rocky! What else is there to talk about? Oh yes - MADE OF STONE.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Six months off for bad behaviour"

Eh up. Royston Blake makes a guest appearance at Brit Grit Alley, delicately tackling the sensitive issue of "special needs". Check it here.

Also check this footage of some 18 year old kid electrifying the world in 1998. One moment of magic like that (against Argentina of all teams) makes up for all the years of injury. Enjoy your retirement, Michael Owen. Try not to buy a pub.

And in case you haven't heard, MADE OF STONE is out.

You thought I could get through a whole post without mentioning that?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

"Blakey on Tour" comes good

Today sees the publication of MADE OF STONE - Mangel book #5. And this blog is the best place to mark the occasion. Because right here is where I started writing it.

Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will recall how I did a guest blog by Royston Blake a couple of years ago called Blakey on Tour (which seems to have spawned 310 spam comments about drugs - WTF?). For some reason I couldn't find a way to sign off from it, so I continued it. Then I continued the continuation... and so on until I had about thirty of the things and no sign of an end in sight. At that point I took it offline.

Made of Stone is the end result, after a few weeks of writing, rejigging and then several months of the usual publication process. I don't know of any other writer who has done this, although I'm sure I'm not the only one. (If Norris McQuirter is reading, can you check that? If it is, I want in the Guinness Book of Records. Or just a crate of Guinness would be fine, thanks.) I don't mean taking your bloggings and putting them into a book, but writing a blog post which ends up turning into a novel. Not only a novel but the fifth novel in a series, and one which the author loved writing and reckons is OK, if he may say so himself. (He may.)

But do you know what? I'd like to do it again.

There was something about the thought that people are waiting for the next instalment - even if it's just one person - that spurs you on. I felt like Dickens when I was writing that thing. Except Dickens got a shilling for each copy of each instalment he sold, whereas I got a comment if I was lucky (or 310 about black market drugs if I was really unlucky). But do you know what? Those comments were worth more than a shilling. They were worth at least 1.5 shillings.

Anyway, Made of Stone. Please buy it (UK, US, Can), steal it, borrow it... read it. Tell your friends. If you know someone who read Deadfolk or one of the other early ones, tell them. Royston Blake is still around.

And he is on tour.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Arking around

Pssst, do you like films? You do, right? And you like them dark and noirish, right? Films that have a clear, strong storyline but that don't force-feed it to you - you like that, don't you? You like it because it acklowledges that you are an intelligent, sophisticated consumer of the cinematic medium and you can do some of the work yourself, so long as that brain of yours is engaged. This is you, right? I'm describing you.

But there is a problem.

You don't have much time.

No time to watch films because you've books to read... such as this one. Or this one which will be published next week (ahem). Plus you have to eat food, sleep, go to the gym. Get turned away from the gym because you are not a member. Pick up the kids. Get turned away from the school because you have no kids. Remember that you do have kids but you are at the wrong school. Turn up at the correct school five hours late, only to find your kids have been taken into care. Get a visit from the police, etc. That sort of stuff, right? Busy stuff. The kind of stuff that stops you watching films.

Well hey.

Your prayers are answered.

Allow me to present ARK, a short film written by me, directed by Mal Woolford and starring Simone Lahbib in femme fatale mode and Raffaello Degruttola as her high-handed paramour.

Ladies and gents, this film is only 3:49.

That's 3:49.

Even the crazy-busiest person in Crazy-Busy Land can shoe-horn that little babe into their schedule.

Watch the film, see what you think, maybe share it on Facebook or something if you dig it. Then give social services a call about getting those kids back.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Fictional Limbo

Sometimes I have a fully formed character popping into my head and staying there. But he doesn't come with a plot. Try as you might, you can't work him or her into a story. Maybe their story hasn't arrived yet, and I should just hang on until it does? Maybe they are ghosts, condemned to exist in fictional limbo for all of eternity? Maybe their sole purpose is as vehicles for bloggings like these (from eight years ago).

Keith (and Danny), I feel your time will come.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

White Rabbits

Happy 2013 to all you lovely people. I know you are lovely because you are probably readers, which means you are at least halfway to loveliness. Or awareness of the human condition in all its fragility and futility, which is even better.

2013 is a year for Royston Blake. These come around when Pluto is in the fifth quadrant, Alpha Centauri lines up with the Death Star and the moon is waxing gibbous. What this means in publishing terms is that a new Mangel book is coming out in March: MADE OF STONE. This is the fifth in the series, and sees much change in the equilibrium of the town but very little change in Blakey, other than more scars. Check it out here (UK) and here (US). I hope loyal Blakey fans will want to find out what's been going on. As ever, newbies can go straight in with no prior Mangel knowledge required. Saying that, they might be interested in the other books in the series too. Plug over.

Resolution for writers
Write your own stuff. Don't piggy-back on the success of others. I'm seeing more and more copy-cat books on the shelves, Twilight this and Fifty Shades of that. Retailers love it, but I don't. Come up with something new, dear anonymous author. Just for me. (Then the rest of us can piggyback on your success.)

Resolution for Kindle owners
Maybe dip your toes into the crystal clear waters of serials this year. Amazon have a few on the go now, and what happens is that you buy the story, then new instalments are beamed down to your Kindle as they appear, via special space rays. Conceivably you could start reading something that hasn't even been finished yet. Ain't that exciting in a non-sexual way? Two to start you off: MATADOR by compadre Ray Banks and THE BETRAYER by Daniel Judson. All I can say is that these two are rocking so far, and I advise you to get on board. Serials were a popular format of fiction back in Victorian times, remember. But now you can put more swearing in.

Resolution for me
Blog more. Although I managed something on this blog for every month of last year, the total was 19 posts. That is NOT good enough. Remember the glory days of 2005, when the post count reached 166? OK, so most of them were crap... but hey, check out the quantity.

Resolution for Santa
Lay off the sauce. Really, is it any kind of example to young people, having a drink at every house you stop off at and then getting behind the reins again? We left you some Baileys this year. You were meant to have a small sip but you DRANK IT ALL. Next year you get orange juice.