The original, on AE is at

I wonder if it’s the same for Father Christmas. You know what I mean – the speeding up of time. When I
was a lad a day was like a week, a day at school more like a term. And as I got older, time began to run amok.

This afternoon I was struggling to finish off a novella about Nelson before travelling down to Leicestershire for a pre-Christmas jolly with the rellies. Only about two thousand words to go, and the deadline seemed more than possible. It’s got to be done before I leave here, because the village that we’re heading for has no broadband to send it off from. Politicians’ promises. Aren’t they a hoot?

The day had been bitty, certainly – but handleable. (Do you like that word: it’s not copyrighted). Endeavour Press told me yesterday that Other People’s Blood would be going up today (that is, Nov 11) for free until the weekend. I dutifully spent lots of the next few hours twooting and faceboogeringabout and all the other modern jollities.

It was even worth the social mediation (another new word?) for that book, in some modern weirdo way. I mean, I’m really fond of it, it makes me sort of cry, so I want it to be read. The fact the bastards were getting it for nothing meant…well, how should a writer take that, in these troubled times? Just a pity it’ll be back to £2.99 by the time you lot get to know!

So the day was bitty, my back was aching from too much round-shouldery at the keyboard, but everything was – oh, bloody hell! Oh, holy smoke! (And here comes my favourite Chaucer quote): O womb, o belly, o stinking cod!

I’ve got a blog to do!

But surely not? It cannot be a month since the last one. That nice American tennis player used to put it rather well, remember: You must be………………..JOKING!

I looked at my lickle diary. Sure enough, the pages had gone brown. Spontaneous combustion. It’s nearly next year, dammit! And here I sit, with Horatio in extremis up the Rio San Juan, almost literally (beyond figuratively!) without a paddle.

And there sensation seekers, he’ll have to sit until I’ve titillated my fan base. Or wrote this blog, at least. What shall I write about? That’s the big shock, as they say on Tyneside.

Ah – a public service announcement. I’ll help people on their way through the festive misery. My Christmas gift to a waiting, hungry world.

Oh no, not hungry. That would spoil it.

Fact is, that earlier this week I invented a brilliant, fantastic diet. Not any old diet, but one which will reduce fat gits like me to shadders of their former selves, and it’s TOPICAL as well. And immensely cheap. Even that Osborne bastard will approve.

Here’s the secret. Last year I noticed that on the day after Boxing Day, Tesco sell off their surplus Christmas puddings for a quid apiece. And Tesco puds, whatever I may think of Tesco morals, are bloody fabulous. I bought the lot, from Tesco Chew Valley Road, Greenfield, Oldham. Seven puddings, seven pounds.

They last forever, believe me. Sugar is a preservative. Brandy is a preservative. And for your hundred pennies, you get both, in GREAT PROFUSION.

Last Monday – two days ago – having nothing to hand for luncheon, I opened one of these darlings – unheated, straight out of the cellophane – and allowed myself a little mouthful. And then another. And then (cont p94). Reader, I ate that bleeding pudding whole. Seven million calories or thereabouts. And it was wonderful.

But here’s where the dieting comes in. I hadn’t had a bite since the night before (I’m not a breakfast man), and I didn’t have another bite until about thirty hours later. AND I WASN’T EVEN HUNGRY!

So now I’ve cracked it. I shall write it up as a diet book (367 pages I’m told is best), with a picture of a domestic goddess with a pot of coke (double wordplay, note, and for the lawyers I mean Coca Cola naturally), and sell it for eighteen guineas. It will fly off the shelves.

And in three weeks time, of course, I can toddle down to Tesco (not necessarily in Greenfield, I’m told they have them all over) – and load up on more one pound puddings till me heart’s content. Like I said, even for Santa Claus himself time waits for no man. Or something.

And a very merry Christmas, and Gord bless us, one and all.

PS If any of you do read OPB, whether free or paid for, please put in a little crit on Amazon. Slag it off, by all means, but I’m told the number of reviews is what turns Joe Punter on, viz Reb’s latest post. Never mind the quality, feel the width…I’m not the only one who’s mad.

Other People’s Blood

Playing catch up

Things move too fast for me sometimes in the digital age. In the past week or so I’ve had one new book out with Endeavour Press – Other People’s Blood – – written it up for Hufpo – – brought out a new edition of my thriller Kicking Off – – and got halfway through a new book about Nelson as a young captain in the West Indies (as yet untitled).

And I’ve only just got round to updating this blog. Bad, bad man.

Other People’s Blood is the most topical, because its publication coincided to within 24 hours with a Panorama special investigation into British Army ‘death squads’ in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. My book treats the death squads, which were heavily denied throughout the Troubles and beyond, as a given. The public suspected they existed, and many British journalists were certain of it. Some indeed, under the hammer of the Official Secrets Act, were actually told. And also told that they could not write about them. Such is Britain’s idea of an open society.

In the book they are the wallpaper, so to speak. It is the story of a wildly sexy Protestant girl called Jessica, whose father is a business man with deep and murky connections to the British government. He is supposed to be a member of another secret organisation believed to have existed in the Province under the name of the Brotherhood. A sort of Freemasons for the very rich and powerful. Protestant, of course.

Jessica is also engaged to a Brit, called Martin Parr. He swans around Belfast and beyond on some sort of business which he never specifies, not even to Jessica. Who, frankly, does not care. She’s at University in Manchester, where she has systematically screwed, and screwed up, half the department, including lecturers. Jessica is a thoroughly modern woman – and by English middle class standards pretty well beyond the pale. (Which is ironic, because within The Pale was where the Protestants lurked historically, and beyond it were the Catholics).

It is a young Catholic called Rory that Jessica meets and falls in love with, however. Properly in love, like she’s never loved before. And Rory is reputed to have connections with the Provies, the gunmen, the murderers. Whether it is true or not does not matter, of course. Once the ball is rolling, pushed and accelerated by both politics and jealousy, the love affair is doomed. It is like Romeo and Juliet on crack cocaine.

Of all my thrillers so far I think it’s my favourite.And it won’t even cost you three quid! Sadly, it costs several of the protagonists their lives.

Off to sea once more…

Say what you like about t’internet, it gets me off my arse. Only a few weeks ago I was contacted by an ebook publisher I’d never heard of – well you wouldn’t have, would you? – and asked if I might like to let them publish a book or two. They’d read my stuff (some, not all – I’ve written so much over the years) and wanted to know if they could do my historical naval series. This is a run of four books featuring a man called William Bentley, who is more or less everything the usual fictional naval heroes aren’t. He’s brave all right, but in the first book, A Fine Boy for Killing, he’s a trainee sadist and an absolute bastard. Throughout the series he grows, but life doesn’t get any more romantic, and even the woman he falls in love with is an archetypal eighteenth century economic prostitute. As was Emma Hart, of course, the penniless Wirral girl who finally made it to being Lady Hamilton.

And died a destitute alcoholic in a Calais gutter.

So no, I said, I’m in the process of getting them ready to be ebooks myself, or rather my son Matti Gardner is. No worries, they cried – write us a novella in the same era. We love novellas, and they can cross fertilise each other.

It seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so I got off me arse (see above). I wrote the book, The Devil’s Luck in double-quick time, and now, before your very eyes, it’s out on Amazon at £2.99. The publisher, Endeavour Press, have now asked for a series based around the life of Nelson – a subject I’ve been steeped in since I was a kid in Portsmouth. I’m starting soon!

Endeavour also did Death Order which I wrote about in my last blog – see below. By one of those remarkable coincidences, the Rudolf Hess mystery, which has been dormant for a few years, burst back into public view at exactly the same time, with stories in the Huffington Post, the Independent, and even the Daily Mail. The book has been selling like the proverbial hot cakes – and at £2.99 is actually cheaper than most hot cakes a baker sells these days.

It has had fantastic reviews, as well, and is now getting them on Amazon, as you can see by clicking on the link above. And the great Hess mystery just goes on getting more and more mysterious. I ain’t complaining!

The Devil’s Luck, though, is something or a new departure for me. It’s set about twenty years earlier than A Fine Boy for Killing (which I’m hoping will be out in a couple of weeks) and only one of the characters appears in the later book. That is Daniel Swift, who is the captain of the Welfare in A Fine Boy, and an utter brute. In the new book, though, he is a young lieutenant, and his character is neither fully lost nor fully formed. I can hardly wait to see how he develops.

The hero is a younger sailor called Charlie Raven. He falls foul of Captain Hector Maxwell, who considers him to be a coward, and decides to break him. It’s a fast-moving story, featuring a chase by open boats across the English Channel. ‘From Ushant to Scilly is Thirty Five Leagues.’ And it’s hell.

Thank God the sailing season’s almost over so that I can work without regret! Please God keep the piles at bay…

Don’t mention the war

I have always been a fascinated observer of how people in power lie and cheat, and how rationality bleeds away from the most dangerous and difficult human problems. We all know that war has no winners, we all know that wars will never end. Thanks to the wonders of ebookery, I’ve been able to revisit my thriller set in wartime and beyond. It’s called Death Orders.

The mystery at the heart of it has been around for a long, long time, and it will not go away. It is about an event so bizarre that the truth will never, obviously, be known. That’s the beauty of the history animal. You don’t have study philosophy very long to hit the sixty four thousand dollar question. What is truth?

Consider this. My book, Death Orders, which will hit the cyber world in the next couple of weeks via Endeavour Press, is about the supposed death of a man who supposedly flew to England in a Messerschmitt in 1941, was possibly not the man he was claimed to be, possibly died in the basement of the Carlton Club at the hands of the secret services, and possibly ended up – the last survivor of all the imprisoned war criminals – incarcerated in Spandau Jail, Berlin.

His name – someone’s name – was Rudolf Hess, and from Spandau his body was sped to hospital after he had hanged himself at the age of 91, from a window frame in a garden hut which was much too low to do the job, shortly after ordering his lunch and a fresh supply of toilet paper. Within hours the wooden hut was gone, burnt to the ground by the British who were in charge of the jail that day. Within weeks, the prison itself had been demolished.

After he had been buried, and the scientific possibilities of DNA came marching ever closer, Prisoner Number Seven was exhumed, cremated, and scattered at sea. In the jail he had refused for more than twenty years to meet his beloved wife and son, and had claimed many times – not least when the fighter plane had crashed in Scotland – that he was not Rudolf Hess. No DNA was ever taken, and key papers about the affair remain top secret, long after the normal term.

All that is not in doubt about this story is that a man flew to England from Germany via Denmark and a man is definitely dead. Some think he came to broker peace. Some think Hitler put him up to it. Some think Winston Churchill was in it up to the elbows, some think the Royal Family were implicated, some are certain Joseph Stalin had a hand.

Uncle Joe, in fact, said this: ‘There are lots of things that happen, even here in Russia, which our secret service does not necessarily tell me about.’

And Joe, except in very peculiar ways, was not noted for his sense of humour.

Churchill said this: ‘There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.’

I don’t believe much in conspiracy theories, but when I took my first bite at this cherry, under the title of The Butcher’s Bill, HarperCollins offered twenty thousand pounds to anyone who could prove its thesis was untrue. Several conspiracy nuts tried very hard, but the cash was safe, although not having Mr Murdoch behind me now I sure as hell won’t take that risk again. But the book is so full of fascinating, wild, sexy, awful happenings, that to rewrite it a bit, and be asked by Endeavour if they could republish it, has been a joy and a delight.

I don’t know exactly which of its elements are facts or lies or lunacies – no one does. But I do know that some of the most screamingly improbable things in it are verifiably completely accurate. If you love history as much as I do, that is more than enough, believe me.

Hats off to Endeavour for letting me fly this kite once more. Let’s hope it has more success than the man in that Me110. Rudolf Hess? Alfred Horn? Or pick a name out of the bran tub.

And twenty grand aside, the bet remains. Prove to me it didn’t happen like I tell it and I’ll be your friend for life.

Probably even buy you a pint…
You can follow them on Facebook and on Twitter. No pub date yet, but very soon.

And if anyone still thinks governments play straight with us, or ever have, or ever will, try Simon Jenkins in the Guardian.


RIGHT – the new version of my (highly acclaimed, I’m happy to say) thriller Kicking Off will be up on Kindle next week to replace the one already available for £1.88. And if you click this link you can read or download a novella-length digest to get the juices flowing – plus some of the fantastic things the press have said about it.


Kicking Off is the first in a series featuringhard-bitten investigative journalist Andrew Forbes and his much more civilised (and beautiful!) Scots ‘assistant’ Rosanna Nixon. The second book, The Bonus Boys, will go up on Kindle in few weeks time. Slightly less in yer face than Kicking Off, it’s still quite rare meat. Forbes and Rosanna (known as The Mouse by some misguided people) get very near to death. Rosanna, in fact, actually feels the blade… Click here for a couple of opening chapters.

As well as doing ebooks, Jan also publishes with McBooks, in America, and Walker Books in Britain and America

His ebook imprint Skinback Books:

A Game of Soldiers Youtube

A Game of Soldiers (novel)

Kicking Off

Killing Time at Catterick

Young Adult and children:
Silver and Blood – Return to Treasure Island

My Mate Shofiq

Albeson and the Germans


Comedy and crime…

Have you ever featured in an advent calendar? I have! A couple of days ago I got an email from novelist Barry Hutchison which contained a link to his website Christmas special. This was how he introduced it:

WAGSTAFFE THE WIND-UP BOY by Jan Needle was one of those books that really had an impact on me when I first read it. I discovered the book when I was nine years old. This was the same year I decided I wanted to be an author, and I honestly think the two things are directly connected.

To nine-year-old me, this story of a robotic boy who can pee through his finger was just the bee’s knees. I borrowed it from the library during a visit with my class, and every week one or two of us would be chosen to stand up and talk about the book they had taken home that week.

Being a shy, retiring sort (I was, honest!) I always avoided teacherly eye contact at that point, terrified of being chosen to go up and talk in front of the class. The week I borrowed this book, I volunteered to speak. I was so bursting with excitement about the story that I wanted to share it with everyone in the class. And now I’m sharing it with you, too.

Darker than Dahl, but side-splittingly funny, there’s a lot in this little book to appeal to all ages. Buy it, read it, and then stand up and tell the world how much fun the story is. You can also find out a lot more info on it at the author’s website.

Don’t forget – on Christmas Eve I’ll be sending out a free 13th Horseman Christmas story to all my newsletter subscribers. Want to get your hands on it? Sign up below.

Barry’s website describes him as the ‘King of Apocalyptic Comedy. Allegedly.’ It’s a good site, with a newsletter (I’ve signed up to) and I’ll be trying out his books asap. ‘Darkly funny horror’ appears to be his bag. Suits me. The link to the site, and advent calendar, is There are more words about Waggie, and a picture of Roy Bentley’s terrific cover.

TALKING OF DARKLY FUNNY HORROR STORIES, I’m happy to say the legal department of Amazon has binned one of the more unpleasant pseudo reviews of Killing Time at Catterick (see post below this one). It’s libellous, dishonest, not far off illiterate, and orchestrated by ARRSE, the unofficial Army website. Pity really. I’d have expected more from the average soldier.

One last thing, for crime lovers. Check this out:

NOIR Magazine
First-of-its kind multimedia tablet magazine for mystery, thriller & true crime genres in all mediums. *launches 12.15.12 Read more here: ‪ …‬
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