Up and running

Exploding jails are not the only excitement on the horizon. After much pain and headscratching,I’ve finally got Skinback Books up on the road. The first six titles are available on Kindle, with some of them also on Smashwords for people with different devices. But none of them will set you back a pound…

Four of the books are mine – two new, two reprints – and two are by my friend Barry Purchese, double Bafta award winning TV playwright who’s now pitched himself into prose. Very shortly ‘J’ by Margaret McCann will hit the virtual streets as well. That one, I promise you,is a real eye-popper.

The Unique Selling Point is their price. My first one is more than 115.000 words long. And it’s up on Kindle for 99p. As are all the others, and as will new books in the future be.

The idea is not to make a fortune, but to try and make a dent. Publishing in this country is deeply in the doodah, and things are getting worse. The big boys are as greedy as they are short-sighted, and the way they treat even long-established authors is terrible. This is not a personal bleat – quite frankly I’m at the stage now where I just want books out there, I don’t look to them for fame and fortune. Suck ’em and see – and if you don’t like the taste, you’ve spent less than a half a bus fare.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch of what Kicking Off is all about.

When the cauldron of hatred that is Britain’s prisons last boiled over, it cost the country untold millions to put the lid back on. Then, there were fifty thousand banged up inside – now it’s almost double that. And trouble, as the Arab spring has shown, can spread like wildfire once it’s started. And race beyond control.

Critic Cally Phillips, on indieebookreview, said: “Jan Needle’s new novel offers a unique perspective on the social ills of our country and an uncomfortable insight into the powderkeg that is our prison system. From the first memorable image to the last page, the style is relentlessly tough and the complex plot will keep you gripped and guessing – and thanking your lucky stars that this is fiction. Or at least hoping that it never becomes fact.”

The spark that explodes the jails this time is the naked ambition of a politician gifted with the task of solving the crisis that’s flared up in our bleak Victorian fortress prisons. A playboy millionaire has been betrayed by the highest in the land, while an American gangster is set to be sprung by a squad of hitmen who will stop at nothing. Mix in a Glasgow hardman thirsting for revenge, and a governor who is more humane than the Prison Service can stand or stomach – and the cauldron of violence and hatred can only overflow – to spread across the land like cancer.

My second book, Killing Time at Catterick, was published last year as The Skinback Fusiliers, and has been put up for the Orwell Prize. It’s a warts and all look at the way the British Army treats some of the young men it sucks in with dreams of glory (or perhaps a wage packet.)

My second two are My Mate Shofiq, which was runner up for the Guardian Award and Albeson and the Germans, which is exciting, realistic and reckoned by kids to be very funny.

Barry’s books are designed for adults, but appeal to younger readers too. Grass Roots is the story – from the life – of an idealistic father who sets up a football team for the kids who don’t get chosen. All goes well until they begin to get successful. Then the punch-ups start…

Summertime Blues is set in the era of teds and paper nylon skirts, and dreams of stardom and the sexual revolution. It’s truly bittersweet.

Here’s a taster for KICKING OFF. It’s the prologue. The full story is violent, sexy, and moves like a rocket. There will be a sequel.


TO: XXXXXX. SECURITY CODING R+EI. (All restrictions)

Look, we’re in the shit. You know it, I know it, everyone with half a brain knows it, even OGL knows it. I’ve seen prisons in Ukraine more civilised than some of ours, I’ve met Guantanamo Bay warders with a greater grasp of human rights. More to the point, it’s going to blow, and I’d say very soon.

Brief rundown: Career criminals, the mentally ill, drug addicts, alcoholics. Gangsters, Yardies, Serbs, Albanians, Roma, Asians, and good old fashioned crims. Thugs, murderers, rapists, paedophiles, gunmen, terrorists. POA men completely disaffected, private sector worse. Worse paid, worse treated, worse pissed off. The madrasa problem, too, Stone Agers spreading like the plague. Rumour has it that some of ‘our’ God-botherers are jealous of the mullahs now, and one’s even converting. He says he’s lonely on a Friday afternoon.

It’s not just our friends on the other side of the House who’ve ignored the problem, no point in claiming that. We’ve also seen the cities burning, we also know what could cook up this summer. The police, the Mets particularly, have gone insane, and OGL looks more and more like a badger in the crosshairs. The numbers just go up and up, the pressure valve is lifting by the day. Who said prison works? What sort of raving lunatic? What happens when we hit the hundred thousand? How long does the lid stay on?

All right, the purpose of this note. For Christ’s sake keep it underneath your hat, but at the risk of sounding cynical, I think this is your chance. Sycophantic maybe, but I think it’s you we need, XXXXXX, you personally – that combination of brain and ruthlessness might be our only hope. OGL thinks so, too, he just needs a bit of prodding in the right direction. Think hard, be brilliant, don’t overplay your hand. Because, my friend, somebody’s got to get a grip. Let it be us, okay? I’m laying down the poison for you now.

PS Try and keep it in your pocket. Your dick, I mean. Believe you me, it doesn’t help.


OGL? R+EI? Internal memos? Dick? Are you mad? Redaction may not ever be enough.


Very possibly. But greater love hath no man – or woman either – than to give a lethal weapon to a friend. Be prepared. It’s going to happen soon.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *