November 20, 2014

Shameless promotion ...

As an inducement to sign up to my Keith Dixon's Novels website, I've added a freebie. If you sign up now, you'll be able to download a free copy of the book I put together of the earlier posts on this blog.

It's actually been one of my best-sellers and has often hovered near the top of the charts for "Writing Skills" on Amazon. Here's a review:

"Excellent. Insightful, entertaining and inspiring. I thoroughly recommend this book to all aspiring authors, regardless of genre."

It's currently retailing at $0.99 or £0.99, but you can have it for free. When you subscribe you won't be bothered too much with messages from me, but you'll get advance notice of new books coming down the pike and the occasional other piece of news.

October 31, 2014

A short-term deal for The Strange Girl

Just a quick advisory note: The Strange Girl is on a short-term discount for the 31st October and 1st November, $0.99 or £0.99.

Here's an interesting fact: my last book, The Bleak, is a thriller, part of which is based on the fact that Russia continued exploring the use of chemical and biological weapons even after they, like the US and Britain, signed a pact banning them in 1972. My book uses their failure to act on the ban to explain the chief villain's actions towards the end of the book.

Well, I've just been reading in a history of the British Secret Service that it was believed that during the Cold War, the Russians had buried caches of Ebola, anthrax and psychotropic drugs at various places around the UK, near to reservoirs and our own biological weapons development facility at Porton Down. In case they wanted to attack us.

Whatever you make up, Real Life always trumps you!

October 13, 2014

Triumphant triumvirate - Lehane, Atkins, Sandford.

I've recently read three crime novels that remind me - if I needed it - why crime writing is such a vigorous genre.

First I read Dennis Lehane's The Drop, which is a novel based on an earlier short story and which has been made into a film starring Tom Hardy and the great James Gandolfini. Effectively, it's the old story about the worm turning - someone who is put-upon finally deciding that enough is enough and finding the strength to assert themselves. The difference here is that the hero, although quiet and unassuming, was once part of a gang that exercised a violent rule over a part of Boston.

September 25, 2014

The Strange Girl

Just a note to say that The Strange Girl will be published tomorrow, 26th September, on more formats than you can care to count.

I'll put just a few here ...


Barnes & Noble (to follow)

And in paperback here in the US

                              here in the UK

September 17, 2014

Ace aces it - The Ranger hits a sweet spot.

I try to keep a handle on new American writers because I'm always on the lookout for people to learn from.

Ace Atkins surprises me - not because he's good, which he is - but because he's written half a dozen or more books and I hadn't stumbled across him or his work until a few weeks ago.

The Ranger is the first book in the 'Quinn Colson' series. Colson is a Ranger - a high-class Special Forces soldier - who returns at the beginning of the book from seeing action in Afghanistan. You get a sense of the man in the opening paragraph:
Quinn headed home, south on the Mississippi highway, in a truck he’d bought in Phenix City, Alabama, for fifteen hundred, a U.S. Army rucksack beside him stuffed with enough clothes for the week and a sweet Colt .44 Anaconda he’d won in a poker game. He carried good rock ’n’ roll and classic country, and photos from his last deployment in Afghanistan, pics of him with his Ranger platoon, the camp monkey “Streak” on his shoulder, Black Hawks at sundown over the mountains. 

Look at the detail in that - Mississippi highway, second-hand truck, 1500 dollars, US Army rucksack, Colt .44 Anaconda, poker game ... concluding with his last deployment in Afghanistan and the Black Hawks in the background. That opening paragraph does so much work in just three sentences, giving us some backstory, some of his personality and even some of his skills ('his Ranger platoon'). We don't get five paragraphs of detailed explanation of who he is, where he's come from and what he can do. We get three packed sentences.

September 07, 2014

Hold the press ...

Just a couple of items of news before my next critique post, which will be on Ace Atkins' book The Ranger. He's a new writer to me but he's written quite a lot and has encomia on his book covers from people like Elmore Leonard and John Sandford, so they obviously recognise his worth. He's also written a couple of books taking on Robert B. Parker's Spenser franchise, which I'll also have to catch up on.

First, a note to say that the next book in the Sam Dyke Investigations series will be published on 26th September. It's going through its final edit now and will be available for pre-order from 16th September. Here's the final version of the cover:

Secondly, the translation of Actress into Chinese is coming on apace. I'm receiving queries now about Chapter 17, and as there are 26 Chapters in the book, that means the translation is about two thirds finished. The promised completion date was by Christmas, so they're well on target. There's been a slight delay with the translation into Spanish because the translator has moved house. Hopefully it won't be deferred too long.

Finally, I'm looking forward to seeing the new movie version of Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder film, A Walk Amongst the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson. It'll be interesting to see how they translate Block's easy style into a wham-bang Hollywood movie, and Matt Scudder's reasonably passive modus operandi into an all-action hero. I hope it's not a disappointment!

August 20, 2014

Actress free downloads

Just a quick note to thank anyone who downloaded for free my contemporary novel, Actress, during the last week. In total there were 4613 downloads of the book between 15th - 19th August, which is one of the more successful freebie promotions I've done. Getting the promotion on Pixel of Ink had a good deal to do with that, as it contributed to 2296 downloads on the day the book was promoted on that site.

Now to see whether this has any knock-on effects on sales of other books, which is the point of it all. If you're interested, the book is now available for £1.49 from Amazon UK, $2.99 from Amazon US, and Euros 2.60 in Europe. 


The Strange Girl, which is the next book in my Sam Dyke Investigations series is now entering its final phase of writing. There's about a third of the book left to complete. I think it should be ready, rewritten and proofread in about a month. There, I've not really put any pressure on myself at all ... 

August 07, 2014

German mysteries

The Dark Meadow is by a writer new to me, Andrea Maria Schenkel. She comes trailing plaudits as the first writer to win Germany's Crime Prize two years running and with her books translated into over twenty languages.

Schenkel seems to have developed a much-admired style that is minimalist and bleak, unfolding her stories in short chapters, each from the perspective of a different character, including the victim. The Dark Meadow, in a nicely-produced edition from Quercus, tells the grim story of a young single mother who returns to her family home having failed to find a life for herself beyond the village limits. It's 1947 and life is hard for a young woman with a child and living with parents who struggle to feed themselves, never mind another two mouths. The tale revolves around what happens to her, her parents and the various subsidiary characters who are witness to, or involved in, the murder itself.

August 05, 2014

Eee, book covers!

I've had a lot of fun lately designing book covers, both for myself and for others. The latest was for my good friend Jochem Vandersteen's latest hard-boiled book, the first in his Vance Custer series and soon to be published. Here's a preview of the cover:

August 03, 2014

The mastery of James Lee Burke

I've said many times before that James Lee Burke is probably the finest writer working in America today. His latest book, Wayfaring Stranger, is not going to dissuade me from that opinion.

Burke has had two strands to his fictional world - one of them involves the one-time police officer and private detective, Dave Robicheaux, who has featured in the majority of his novels over the last 30 or so years. The other strand plays with the fictional Holland family - apparently a meditation on Burke's own family, the Hollans. He has gone backwards and forwards in time with this family, and in Wayfaring Stranger we alight just before, during and after the Second World War.

Wendel Holland lives with his slightly detached mother and his grandfather (the hero of an earlier Burke novel), and at some point in the early 1930s has a run-in with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, a meeting which colours and illuminates his adult years.

July 31, 2014

5 Signs Crime Fiction is Still Evolving - A Guest Post by Rebecca Gray

Today I'm pleased to publish a guest post by Rebecca Gray, who writes about real crime at Her comments on the impact of technology and new media have certainly made me think about my own practice as a writer in the modern world. Please add any comments you wish or write to Rebecca directly at the email address below.

image courtesy ponsaluk

5 Signs Crime Fiction is Still Evolving

Rebecca Gray

Crime fiction as a genre dates back to the 19th century, when Poe chilled readers with "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and Conan Doyle gave birth to the archetypal detective in Sherlock Holmes. You can still cast new writing in that classic mold, but today's crime fiction continues to expand its reach, merging with different fields like science fiction and fantasy or exploiting the possibilities of new media.

Changes in modern culture and technology are driving these changes in crime fiction. The plots of old classics in detection like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Red House Mystery depend on the lack of formal methods for processing a crime scene we now use routinely, so in order to produce similar novels today, a writer would have to craft a story deliberately excluding modern techniques and solutions.

July 30, 2014

Support your local writer

A couple of months ago I heard about Pubslush, a site that is like a Kickstarter for books. If you don't know it, Kickstarter is a site where creative people can get financial backing from ordinary folk for their creative projects. Pubslush aims at achieving the same result for writers.

So, seeing as I'm well into writing the fifth Sam Dyke book, The Strange Girl, I thought I'd give it a go. The result is the page I'm linking to here. If you're so disposed, and have money to spare, you can donate some of it to a worthy cause - me - and in return, when the project is finished you'll get a reward of some kind, assuming I reach a minimum attainment.

I'm not anticipating lots of take-up, to be honest, but I'll treat it as an experiment and if it works, that's great. If not, meh.

Here's the link to my project page:

July 28, 2014

The Alliance of Independent Authors

I'm proud to say that I've just been granted Professional Membership of the Alliance of Independent Authors, a body that has been founded to promote and protect the interests of independent and self-published authors.

This is the first time I've been a professional member of anything and it gives me great pleasure that this first occasion should be for something that I love doing.

You have my permission to stare at and admire the badge on the right-hand side of this page.

July 25, 2014

Exciting news

This is just a placeholder post before I get around to reviewing James Lee Burke's latest book, Wayfaring Stranger.

There have been a couple of exciting developments recently, involving translation. First, I joined a site called Fiberead, who asked if I'd be interested in having one of my books translated into Chinese. Well, frankly, what writer wouldn't? China is currently the third-largest user of ereaders at the moment, and I guess that user-base will only increase with time. Getting my book into a form that will be readable should only be a good thing. The site is currently recruiting translators for Actress.

The second translation is coming from a site called Babelcube, who have put me in touch with a lady called Silvia Jurado Hermida, who is going to translate Actress into Spanish. Obviously this is also a large potential market, with Amazon having Kindle stores available for Spain and Mexico, for example. It's promised to be completed within 70 days - which will be some going.

Finally, just a nod towards Wayfaring Stranger, James Lee Burke's latest contemplation of The Way We Live Now. This book takes the Holland family strand that he's written about before and is positioned during and just after WWII. Although not evidently a 'crime' novel there are certainly strong plot elements in it that get the pulse racing, with Burke's usual mix of extraordinary villains and unusual characters. More later.

July 07, 2014

Digital Book Day

Just a note to say that July 14th will not only be Bastille Day, marking the beginning of France's freedom from oppression, but also Digital Book Day, marking the freedom of a number of ebooks from the oppression of having a price attached to them ...

You can go along to this site and on that day, download books from a number of wonderful writers for FREE! What could be better? OK, maybe a hot tub, but apart from that? Not much, I warrant. Here's the link, so put it in your diary:

Digital Book Day

June 20, 2014

Marlowe rises from the grave ... then sinks into it again.

It's been called literary ventriloquism - the ability to write in the 'voice' of another writer. That idea, once a jeu d'esprit, has now become big business. I guess it began with Kingsley Amis writing a James Bond novel - Colonel Sun - after Fleming's death, following his own critical examination of the Bond phenomenon, The James Bond Dossier. Subsequently, Wikipedia provides a frighteningly long list of Bond books written by other writers, culminating most recently with William Boyd's poor effort, Solo.

Recently, the Booker-Prize winning author John Banville, writing in his guise as Benjamin Black, has produced a Raymond Chandler 'continuation', The Black-Eyed Blonde, apparently a title that Chandler had earmarked in his notes for future use. This follows a couple of attempts at Chandler follow-ons from the prolific and often excellent Robert B. Parker - Poodle Springs and Perchance to Dream, neither of which met with much approval from hard-boiled fans. But then, expectations are high when it comes to Raymond Chandler.

May 23, 2014

And the hits keep coming ...

Now I've published the fourth in the Sam Dyke series, it seemed appropriate to offer the first three as a so-called 'Box Set'. It's available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple and probably lots of other places, too. What's more, buying this set is cheaper than buying all three separately!

Here's the cover and some links ...

Sam Dyke Box Set cover image

From Amazon US:

From Amazon UK:

From Barnes and Noble: (coming soon)


May 07, 2014

A new Sam Dyke - The Bleak

I've just published my new Sam Dyke novel, The Bleak. Here's the blurb (that's technical speak):

For P.I. Sam Dyke, taking this particular case is not promising. A secretary is worried that her boss is cracking up, and she doesn’t know why. 
It doesn’t take Dyke long to discover that it’s not just the pressures of work that are getting to this man, a scientist. It’s his colleagues, too. Their leader, Stratford Greif, is a hyper-intelligent biochemist who has a personal philosophy that is taking him in one direction—to produce a calamitous event that may destroy the lives of hundreds of people. Or more.
Dyke sets himself on a course to prevent Greif from achieving his ends. A course that endangers him, his new partner and, it seems, anyone else who disagrees with what Greif wants to do ...

And here's the cover: 

I know many of you are keen to add this to your collection so here are the links:

April 07, 2014

Public Service Announcement

Tammy Moore from New Writing North, the writing development agency for the North East of England, has asked me to circulate the following info to anyone who's interested in crime writing - especially if you're based in the north. 

Crime Story

A weekend festival for crime writers and readers

Spend a weekend getting under the skin of a fictional crime with top crime writers, criminologists, lawyers, police and forensics experts. New Writing North and Northumbria University invite crime writers (aspiring or established) and readers to Crime Story – a weekend of discussion and workshops focusing on a fictional crime and how it would be investigated in real life.

Ann Cleeves, prize-winning author of the Vera Stanhope series (now a major ITV series) and Shetland Island Quartet series, has created a crime especially for this weekend. Throughout the Crime Story weekend criminologists and forensic scientists will give insights into how labs work, experts in policing will talk you through scene of the crime procedure and journalists will discuss the moral responsibility of reporting on heinous crimes. There will also be prize-winning crime writers at the festival – Louise Welsh, Margaret Murphy (AD Garrett) and Ann Cleeves – who will talk about how to incorporate the forensic facts into fiction. Participants will be guided ably throughout the weekend by author and former crime fiction critic for The Observer Peter Guttridge.

This is an unmissable opportunity for any lover of crime fiction, whether you’re an aspiring writer or want to dig deeper into your favourite, fictional world. To find out more about Crime Story, and to book your place, go to

I'm sorry I won't be able to make it because it looks like a great event. 

April 03, 2014

The Booktrap - a nice place to be caught.

I haven't posted for a while because I've been busy writing the next installment of Sam Dyke's investigations.

However, I have had time to get involved in the creation of a new site produced by writers but aimed at readers. It's called The Booktrap and it's been set up by writers from the site. This site is run by publishers HarperCollins and is a place where writers can upload work for critique from other writers and eventually, if their work is popular enough, be read by the professionals at HarperCollins.

The Booktrap is an entirely separate undertaking, however, and includes a website promoting the authors' books and a Facebook page for general Facebooking stuff. Here are the links. Please go along and do the Liking thing.

The Booktrap webpage.

The Booktrap on Facebook.

February 06, 2014

James W Hall - the brightness of Going Dark

James Hall is a poet and professor of literature, and this literary background informs all of his books. Hit List was an entertaining examination of what exactly best-sellers did to become best-sellers, and Hall's knowledge of structure, character and dialogue are, as usual, well to the foreground in his tenth Thorn book, Going Dark.

January 10, 2014

Michael Connelly - is he guilty?

A long absence on this blog, folks, because I've been finishing a (non-crime) book and, you know, having Christmas and New Year and stuff.

So what's to report?

Well, I've recently read Michael Connelly's latest Mickey Haller book, The Gods of Guilt, and thought it was pretty terrible, actually. As with his Harry Bosch series, Connelly seems to be running out of steam. He relies way too much on exposition and not enough on placing us in the middle of the action. This is always a danger with court-room dramas, and writers have two possible options - one is to make the out-of-court story interesting in itself; the other is to make the examination of witnesses compelling and revelatory.

Strike out on both counts here.

Haller's storyline when he's not in court is essentially to track down and talk to witnesses. As we might have expected, he falls for an ex-prostitute who suddenly, without further ado, becomes his girlfriend and then vanishes into the background. There's a lot of time spent setting her up, and Haller's relationship to her ... but the next thing we know he's waking up in her bed and driving home. How did that happen? And what are the consequences? And what do his team members think of his sudden shacking up with an ex-hooker and potential witness in the current case? All it does is attempt to show Haller as a human being, but it actually portrays him as someone shallow.

The other element of his out-of-court activity is his non-relationship with his daughter, who's moved away from home and is living with mom. For most of the book Haller tries to get her involved in his life but she ignores him. And in the end, we don't care. We don't see or hear her and so the relationship has no life and we can barely feel his pain. The time he spends on hillsides watching her through binoculars as she plays field hockey just seems creepy. I suppose it's supposed to act as a counterpoint to Harry Bosch's relationship with his daughter but it doesn't work.

What can't be ignored, either - and hasn't been by many review critics - is the way the death of one of his team members is almost brutally ignored. The person dies (no spoilers) ... cut to next part, a couple of months later. No aftershocks, no emotional soul-searching, no change in behaviour. Given the way he used to be able to handle this kind of personal trauma in the Bosch series, it's a severe disappointment that he can't really deal with it more sensitively here. As a result, the book becomes eminently plot-driven, and the characters lose their reality - after all, they're just pawns in Connelly's hands and they have to do what he wishes. (There's a strange semi-postmodern game that he's playing with readers these days, too ... he has his characters refer to films made of earlier 'cases' - for Bosch, Blood Work, made into a film starring and directed by Clint Eastwood; for Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer, starring Matthew McConaughey. Their references to these films create a weird virtual world in which fictional characters talk about real films made from fictions. You feel a bit like Alice going down the rabbit-hole and not knowing which way is up.)

The second option open to legal thriller writers is to build up the courtroom drama itself - something at which Scott Turow, for example, excels. In this book, unfortunately, Connelly shows us Haller questioning a lot of witnesses on the stand, but he has to keep telling us what's important about the testimony, because he assumes we don't understand. OR, what happens is so predictable (again, no spoilers) that we sigh when the plot-twist arrives. There is a major turn at the end of the trial, but this is so extreme and, really, so out-of-character for the person involved, that it just seems silly.

A symptom of how badly Connelly has misjudged this book is in the title itself: The Gods of Guilt. Haller tells us this is his name for the jury in a trial, because they're the ones who'll determine whether the accused is guilty or not. Well, OK ... but it's such a crap name for them I can't imagine anyone speaking the words out loud. But Haller does, on several occasions, and it just sounds lame. He'd just call them 'the jury', surely? Calling them Gods does them no favours and doesn't elevate the book to any kind of meditation on the justice system and its good or bad points, which is perhaps what he was intending.

I used to really look forward to a new Connelly. Now I'm starting to open the books a little more gingerly and hope he can get back to the standard of The Poet or The Narrows. Though I'm not holding out much hope.