November 12, 2013

Has Bond sunk Solo?

I've recently finished William Boyd's attempt at a James Bond novel, Solo, and pretty thin fare it is.
It pains me to say this, as I've been a fan of Boyd's for a long time, probably since Brazzaville Beach. He picks diverse subjects to write about and his style is straightforward and without too many literary flourishes, though he's always been regarded as a posh novelist rather than a commercial one, I think.

October 21, 2013

Online Crime-writing Workshop

I don't usually respond to advertising requests - well, all right, I do - but I thought this was interestingly and directly relevant to the topic of this blog, which is about how crime writers do what they do.

Carrie King from WritersWebTV has written to me asking if I would promote this event and I think it's interesting enough to warrant further publicity. Rather than try to paraphrase it, I'll just paste the main text of her email:

Crime’s best writers give you the scoop

Best-selling crime authors Ken Bruen, Jane Casey, Declan Hughes and Niamh O’Connor will be joining WritersWebTV on October 30th, ready to arm aspiring authors with all the best writing tips, tricks and methods at the upcoming workshop, Crime Pays: Writing Crime Fiction.

Multi-award-winning Ken Bruen - the author of the Jack Taylor series which has become a TV hit starring Iain Glen – will talk through writing great hook-lines and how to develop characters across a series. Jane Casey, author of the Maeve Kerrigan series of crime novels will guide participants through the basics of narrative and plot. Declan Hughes - author of the Ed Loy PI series - rigorously plans his writing and he’ll be giving his insights on how to plan for your novel while being open to new sources of inspiration. Niamh O’Connor, one of Ireland’s leading crime journalists, will lead us through the research process and crack the code of juggling family, writing and a day-job.

This free-to-watch-live, online workshop will cover all aspects of crime fiction and viewers will be able to interact with those in studio to help them develop their skills. WritersWebTV has developed a world-first innovation in online education for writers by providing livestreamed interactive workshops to a global audience, featuring Irish and international best-selling writers and industry professionals.

The one-day workshops are streamed live from a multi-camera broadcast studio in Dublin. Bestselling authors interact with an in-studio audience of aspiring writers, who present their work for critique. Online viewers can communicate with those in the studio using Twitter, Facebook or email. They can ask a question, take part in a workshop exercise, comment online and benefit from on-screen feedback from the authors in-studio.

Led by experienced workshop facilitator Vanessa O’Loughlin, founder of, the panel will consider the key elements of fiction writing and furnish viewers with tips, advice and actionable insights to help them improve their writing and get it on the path to publication.

Upcoming courses include Crime Pays: Writing Crime Fiction on Wednesday, October 30th, and Getting Published on Saturday, November 9th, with plans in motion for courses in 2014.

Viewers can watch the full one-day workshops for free when they watch them live. If they want to download a workshop or watch it later, they can pay to keep the course.

For more information, contact:
Carrie King
Tel: +353 1 2076476
Mob: +353 87 9918963

October 13, 2013

Awesome Indies

Not really a blog, more of a boast ...

I'm proud to say that Actress has been accepted by the discerning crowd at Awesome Indies, and is officially 'Approved' as an awesome independently-published work. A book has to go through some hoops to be allowed into the lists, so it's particularly gratifying Actress made it through.

You can find the site, and the list of books that have attained an excellent standard in writing, editing and production, here:

Actress is in the Contemporary Fiction section. To the right of this page you'll see the badge, which will also be appearing on the cover of the ebook version.

October 01, 2013

Private Eyes Rule!

Just a note to advertise a new anthology of private eye short stories to which I've contributed a new Sam Dyke story. There are also stories from Reed Farrel Coleman, Bill Crider, James Winter, Fred Zackel, J.L. Abramo, Jochem Vandersteen, Sean Dexter and some newer names like Kit Rohrbacher, Peter DiChellis and others.

As a sidebar, I also designed the cover. Thankfully, people seem to like it!

You can download the book from here for 99 cents:

Or from here for 77 pence:

September 07, 2013

US TV - the new noir?

I've just started watching the great show Southland's series 5. If you don't know it, it's set in the south of LA and follows a group of LA cops going about their daily lives, both in and out of uniform. Our introduction into the life of the cops was with young rookie Ben, who is now a seasoned officer and is beginning to toughen up.

August 22, 2013

The Great Elmore Leonard, RIP

I first started taking crime fiction seriously when I began reading the books of Elmore Leonard. A friend had brought a couple back from America in the early eighties and loaned them to me. I'd just begun to include American crime fiction as a staple part of my leisure reading, beginning with George Higgins and - another American import who wasn't published in the UK - K.C. Constantine and his Mario Balzic novels. Shortly afterwards came my introduction to Robert Parker's Spenser, which sent me back to the Lew Archer novels of Ross Macdonald ... and on and on.

These were all great books to read - involving, swift-moving, funny, great dialogue ... but Elmore Leonard stood out even from this pack. His style involved you immediately in the action and in the thought processes of his main characters. Here are some first lines:

"The night Vincent was shot he saw it coming."—Glitz (1985)

"Chris Mankowski's last day on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb."—Freaky Deaky (1988)

"The Blackbird told himself he was drinking too much because he lived in this hotel and the Silver Dollar was close by, right downstairs."—Killshot (1989)

"Dale Crowe Junior told Kathy Baker, his probation officer, he didn't see where he had done anything wrong."—Maximum Bob (1991)

August 06, 2013

Get well, Elmore

The Great Elmore Leonard is in hospital having suffered a stroke a week ago.

I'm sure all those who've read his books or seen films made from them (e.g  Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Hombre) wish him all the best.

July 25, 2013

Stephen Dobyns - unsung hero?

I've been meaning for a while to write about Stephen Dobyns' new book, The Burn Palace. He made his name originally with a series of books set in Saratoga and dealing with the horse-racing set in that part of the US, featuring his laid-back detective, Charlie Bradshaw. He later expanded his purview with The Church of Dead Girls and Boy in the Water. He is also a poet.

The Burn Palace is set in a fictional Rhode Island township, Brewster, and seems initially to be a crossover novel dealing with the supernatural and possibly vampirism or werewolf-ism (?) However, as the main protagonists set about their police investigation, it becomes clear that what appears to be supernatural is common-or-garden evil-doing, and that the usual suspects - the good and the great of the local community - are just in it for the money.

July 16, 2013

Site for New Releases

Publishing my books as I do, I'm always on the look-out for new places to market. I came across this site the other day, which looks very nice and has a page devoted to new releases. You might find something you like there!

e-Reader Recon

The site is run by Dennis Larsen and his own book, The Living Hunger, is available on this page.

July 13, 2013

Pricing ...

Okay, I've cut the prices of all my books to $0.99 cents (or equivalent in different currencies). This is an early Christmas present to any readers still hesitating whether to buy or not. Of course, this price only applies to Kindle downloads, or any other e-versions downloaded from Apple iBooks, Sony, Kobo or Barnes and Noble.

Hurry hurry hurry ...

July 10, 2013

The Burke Gang

Just had to post this ... a video interview of Alafair Burke and her dad, James Lee Burke, interviewed by sister/daughter Pamela. It's a bit ropy but it's sweet to see the Burke Gang together.

June 25, 2013

Ra-Ra Florida!

I'm just reading Carl Hiassen's latest book, Bad Monkey.
A full report later. It continues his tradition of showing the underbelly of life in the Sunshine State, though interestingly there's more focus on a romantic relationship this time, and less concern with describing the antics of comic heavies.

 Coincidentally, the field of crime writing in Florida is covered in Adam Gopnik's article in The New Yorker magazine this month. Every two years, when Hiassen releases a new book, we get a plethora of articles about his work, or the work of his colleagues. But I'm not complaining, because Lawrence Shames, James Hall, Tim Dorsey and Charles Willeford are among my favourite crime writers, so the more there is to read about them, the better.

Apart from Miami Blues, from Willeford's book, though I'm struggling to think of a good film made from one of these books. There was an awful film of Hiassen's Striptease, but surely someone could make a film of one of James Hall's Thorn books - they're exciting, deal with real relationships, have something to say about the rape of the environment and have a great leading role for a tough-looking but relatively placid actor. Someone like Mathew McConaghey, perhaps, or even Ryan Reynolds. They'd have to grow long hair, though.

I think there have been films from a couple of Elmore Leonard's books, but nothing substantial.
In other news, Actress is starting to sell some copies. The price is currently reduced to $0.99 till the end of the month, so this is the time to buy! Click here for the Kindle version.

June 18, 2013


On Saturday 15th June I published my new book, Actress. It has nothing to do with crime fiction and actually seems quite hard to characterise and categorise. In Amazon's publishing key words I've used phrases like contemporary fiction, women's fiction, romance and even new adult, so hopefully some people will find it.

I'm now going to use a link to the book that apparently will take you to the book's Amazon site in whatever country you're in, so this will be interesting. If you do happen to read the book, please leave a review, because whether you've liked it or not, reviews help sell books.

OK, drum roll, here's the link ... Actress.

June 07, 2013

Searching ...

A quick thank you to anyone who's come here as part of my Facebook Search Engine Optimization experiment. The Facebook Like button is to the right.

You could always stick around and take a look at some of the posts below. They're mostly to do with crime novels, so if that's your bag, dive in.

Thanks again.

June 03, 2013

An interesting site

For those of you who like reading about how crime writers work (and I guess you wouldn't be reading this site if you weren't), then can I point you to an interesting blog by Scottish writer Tony Black. He's just published a collection of interviews with other crime writers, including Ian Rankin and William McIlvanney, and one of my favourites, Andrew Vachss, than whom they don't come any harder boiled.

You can see the blog here, from which you can buy the book.

June 02, 2013

Opening up to the market ...

Well, a post about me and not other writers today.

I've done well out of Amazon's Select programme for publishers, which allows you to nominate your books for 'free' download every 90 days. The free downloads attract a lot of people and the idea is that once the free days have finished, readers will continue to download that particular book or any others of yours that are available to buy. The catch is that your books have to be available exclusively on Amazon during that 90 day period in order to 'earn' those free days.

This has worked well for me and enabled me to build up a bit of a head of steam - I'm getting reviews and the recent re-launch of the books with added Search Engine Optimisation means that they're showing up higher in searches on Amazon, too.

But now it's time to move on. I have a new book coming out shortly - Actress - and I want to hit as many markets as possible. So I've added my books to the Smashwords site, which is a site that acts as a distributor of your book to locations like Barnes & Noble, Apple and Sony. I could do all that myself as an independent, but each site has their own requirements for formatting, so in the end it's easier to submit one edition to Smashwords and let them take care of the formatting and all the associated paperwork. They only pay every quarter, but as this is the same (or slightly better) than traditional publishers I don't feel I'm getting a rough deal. We've all been spoiled by Amazon's more-or-less instant reporting of sales on your dashboard, but they still only pay about six-to-eight weeks after your sale anyway, so it's not that different.

So if you don't like Amazon, or want to pay for a book via Paypal rather than credit card (which you can do from the Smashwords site itself) then hurry along to this page where you can buy the books now! In a few days' time they should be available on the iBooks Apple store and WH Smith store too.

Keith Dixon's Smashwords page.

May 31, 2013

Dan Brown's Inferno ... putting us all through Hell

I'm not going to write much about this because I don't want to give him the publicity he doesn't need (as if MY critique is going to have any impact!)

Put simply, this is a terrible book. The Da Vinci Code was badly-written but at least the plot was propulsive. The Lost Symbol was in the same vein and made you want to know what happened in the end. Inferno is just ... boring. I've been reading it for a week now and I'm only half-way through. There's no compulsion to finish it at all. I will, just to find out how it ends. But the 'big reveal' that Brown specialises in is already becoming clear, so there's no expectancy there. The main assassin is dead (like the albino monk in TDVC, but not as hardy). And to be honest I JUST DON'T CARE.

May 09, 2013

That freebie time again ...

Yes, it's time for my very first book to come around again for its free Kindle download session on Amazon. Last time out Altered Life made number 1 in the Hard Boiled category, so it would be good if it could make it again! The link is on the right hand side of the page.

Also, I'm pleased to say that I was made a 'featured author' on Indie Book Bargains, as the badge below left shows. Click on it and it takes you to my 'featured' profile on Indie Book Bargains. I thank you ...

April 26, 2013

Joe R. Lansdale's East Texas adventures

[I wrote this in June 2007. I'm reposting it on this blog in honour of the publication of the new Hap and Leonard book, and on the news that a series called Hap and Leonard is in pre-production. Let's hope it gets the green light!]

Do you ever have sudden enthusiasms for writers?

April 16, 2013

Robert Littell - The Company he keeps

There seems to me to be three titans in the world of espionage thrillers - John le Carre, Charles McCarry and Robert Littell. The first two of these were involved in the world of espionage in some form (though le Carre plays down his active involvement) while Littell was a close observer of the cold war as a journalist for Newsweek for many years.

After the early books le Carre went off the boil, for me, but McCarry and Littell have improved over time. McCarry has a poetic tone together with an allusive, indirect style that is reminiscent of Martin Cruz Smith. Littell, though not so poetic, can be equally indirect - almost misleading - in the way he constructs his intricate stories of failed belief and betrayal.

April 12, 2013


I've been very remiss with this blog for a while now because I've been working on other projects.
However, I'm working through Robert Littell's mega-tome, The Company, and will be coming back to it shortly. He's probably my favourite spy-novel writer and nothing in this book suggests that's going to change.

In other news, I had a successful 'free Kindle download' run of The Hard Swim, with over 2000 copies being downloaded. That's been followed with a pretty good uptake on the priced edition now the freebie offer has finished.

Also, just a quick mention of Justified yet again ... I have the final episode to watch and can't wait to see how this story-arc plays out. It will be hard to replace my weekly fix of this, though the re-start of Mad Men will go some way towards it.

And finally, I made a book trailer for The Hard Swim which is now up on YouTube ... and here:

The Hard Swim Video

February 27, 2013

The new Sam Dyke

A long time since my last post as I've been putting to bed my latest Sam Dyke novel, The Hard Swim.

The novel begins in Edinburgh Zoo and finishes in a small village in France. Sam finds himself involved in helping a young woman whose family history in the Second World War might compromise the present-day career of a government minister. And he doesn't like that, so he hires a team to stop it happening.

Two real-life events are part of the story - first, the sinking of an old steamer carrying several hundred Rumanian Jews to Palestine and safety, in 1942. The second, the capture and execution of 30 members of the new SAS in France in 1944. What links these two events is the mystery that Sam has to uncover.

It's available in both paperback and Kindle-formats from Amazon stores practically world-wide.

January 05, 2013

He just couldn't reach ...

Sorry for the umpteenth pun on Jack Reacher, but it seems all the bad pre-publicity caught up with Tom Cruise's take on One Shot. Too bad. Here's an analysis on a nice site that looks at writing and film:

Word and Film