Thursday, December 31, 2009


Wishing you all a happy new year. But, really, what difference does it make if I wish you a good one or a bad one or any kind of a one? Do you really think my wishes make a difference, or yours and anyone's? My friend, get real. We're all going to have whatever kind of new year fate has in store for us, and the only thing that might change that is our own efforts, if we're lucky.

Still, happy new year.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Three reasons why Amir Khan should fight Ricky Hatton ASAP

1. Amir Khan is the world champion (WBA). As such, he is at the top of the tree. He should be capable of taking on anyone, otherwise he should not carry that belt. Yet people still say he should take some time and a few easier fights before tackling the big guys in his weight class. People see him as a bit of a junior, and that hurts him. And he will never be hailed as even the best light-welter in his own country until Ricky Hatton retires. Or he beats him. Ergo, the only way for Amir to achieve the respect he craves at home is to beat the man. And beat him before his obesity retires him.

2. Oh yes, Ricky Hatton is fat. His usual weight between fights, if he walked in a ring at that weight he would be a light-heavy, or even cruiser. And yet he fights at light-welter. He eats fry-ups, takeaways and guzzles beer. So... no one takes him seriously in the long term as a boxer. No athlete treats their body like that, therefore he is not a serious athlete. and yet he has ruled at world class, and been beaten only twice - by the pound for pound best boxer in the world, each time. Ergo, the only way to prove to the world that he is not past it is to beat the youngest, most dangerous and consistently fit up-and-comer around, a guy who holds the WBA belt - once Ricky's own. Oh, he's that guy just down the road in Bolton.

3. Remember Benn and Eubank? Remember the frisson of excitement when those two went toe to toe? Well, picture Khan-Hatton. Something of the same? Beneath Khan's braggadocio has always lurked a visible sense of his own fallibility, and nowhere would it be more apparent than facing the fat man. Hatton knows he could be one fight from oblivion, that if this fast kid with undeniably better skills beats him, he is on a one-way ticket to a collesterol-saturated retirement. Both have everything to gain and everything to lose, but the fight cannot be avoided - it has the word destiny stamped all over it. (See how easy it is to market this fight?)

So there you go, three reasons why this fight would be the best thing to happen in UK boxing for years... and MUST happen. And here's one reason why it will never happen:

4. Frank Warren is a c***.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Shame about this, and I really hope they can find a clever buyer who can make it work again. In my London days I used to spend hours in the flagship Oxford Street branch (sadly already closed). I discovered so many writers in there, just from being able to sit down on a couch with a book for a while. When my first book came out, that was the London store I first checked to see if they had it in. They did, but it was only in the crime section and not in the more prominent "new books" section downstairs. So I got a copy and took it down there, placing it front-out in front of a pile of someone else's book (dog eat dog, babe). Then I stood back and watched, pretending to read a copy of Heat magazine. Sure enough, a man came along and picked it up. He read the first page for a bit then put it back. Bastard!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving... all yanks out there. As a special present (*cough*) to mark the occasion, I can let you know that Stairway to Hell will be published over there and in Canada by Serpent's Tail in June 2010. Any North Americans who already have it, you guys are ahead of the curve. You are able to speak several languages instinctively, work out the square root of any number in less than a second and jump over a car without touching it. You just don't realise it yet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

What do you call a man with three planks of wood on his head?

R.I.P. Edward Woodward, who was an iconic presence for anyone who loved The Equalizer, The Wicker Man, Callan, Hot Fuzz or many others. On top of that he was the punchline of a joke (see above) AND could sing with the best of 'em:

I am a mole and I live in a hole

Five Stairway to Hell-themed questions answered by me at 3am Magazine. They'll make you cry. They'll make you laugh. They'll make you blow your overdraft. On Stairway to Hell... which you can get in a nice double deal along with my first book Deadfolk for a nice £9.52 over at Hey, it's nearly Christmas.

(Shit, Charlie, didn't anyone tell you it's uncool to promote your wares on your own website?)

No, they didn't. And if anyone knows of someone else's website I can hawk my shit on, drop us a line. For we are living in a material world, and I am a material girl.

Thank you Susan Tomaselli for the five probing questions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"It was not immediately clear if any customers had been served"...

Now I know why there is a Russian edition of Deadfolk.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Had a good time at the Kent Uni event, where I stood up in front of students, read a couple of passages from my books and talked about writing. However, halfway through the proceedings I became convinced that my flies were undone. I didn't see how I fix this - or even confirm my suspicions - without looking like I was fiddling with myself. I was in Royston Blake character mode, reading the forklift passage from King of the Road, but my heart wasn't in it. It was in my pants, wondering if everyone could see them. And worse: was that a cool breeze I just felt down there? As soon as it was over I sat down and very subtly checked.

False alarm.

So, to the students of Kent who came, apologies. You got a watered down version of Blakey there, due to my anxieties. Usually he's a lot louder and more vehement. And let's be honest: Blakey wouldn't give a shit if his flies were undone.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kent Event

A bit late, this, but if you happen to want to come to my event at Kent University tomorrow, here are the details:

Tue, 10th November, 6pm

Peter Brown Room, Missing Link, Darwin College, Canterbury Campus

£2 entry - pay the pink bucket at the door.

Tickets available at the door or by post. Please email to reserve or purchase a ticket.
More details here. I will be talking about writing, doing a little bit of reading (aloud) and answering questions. See you there if you're around.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

These boots were made for

No, not some pervy fetish thing, I'm afraid. This is the prefered footwear of Adam Booth, trainer of David Haye (6'4"), who on Saturday night fights Nikolai Valuev (7'0"). When you can't find sparring partners tall enough, this is what you do.

My prediction: Valuev pts victory. He is just too big. (Also his manager is German, the fight is in Germany, and German judges are, shall we say, loyal to their own).

FWIW, I kind of want the big Russian to win. He is no Ivan Drago, more of a Shrek. Haye is by far the superior fighter, but I can't help but admire a guy who, after 50 fights, openly admits he is still learning to box. He'll come unstuck against either Klitchko brother anyway, if he ever was made to fight them.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Black Static

Stairway to Hell got a nice review in Black Static magazine (the UK's premier mag for horror/dark sf/slipstream etc). Many thanks to Mr Peter Tennant for the positive words, and for having a crack at nailing the genre:

"In the end, this is not so much horror fiction as a subversive text in which tropes of the genre are added on to a comic novel dealing with aspects of modern life, such as the lust for fame, reality TV and the superficiality of the media, all of which get the piss taken out of them (sorry, but I couldn’t resist that). Bottom line, Stairway to Hell is a barrel of fun, probably best read to a soundtrack of The Song Remains the Same and Ch-Ch-Changes."


Anyone in Canterbury read this? On Tuesday, 10th Nov I will be at Kent University campus in that town (my alma mater) to talk to the creative writing fraternity there. I am told the event is open to the public, so please come along if you like my books at all or are interested to know how and why I write such things. If you don't give a shit either way, maybe you should come anyway and let me convert you. If you actively dislike me and the books, maybe you should stay away. Or come, and throw things at me. I'll bring my cricket bat and fire them back at you, thereby achieving these kinds of headlines and the success that notoriety brings.

Check the events page for details. Nothing there as I write this but I'll pull my finger out about a week before the event.

Bandido vs Bandido

My kind of biker gang:

"They were at the very bottom rung of biker gangs. Some were in their 40s but still lived with their parents. They were not making any money, many of them had been rejected by the Hells Angels and half of them didn't even own a motorbike."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The only thing real is waking and rubbing your eyes

Not been here for a while. It always goes the same way when I have a book out: intense burst of activity as you take the book by the hand and lead it out into the world. But Stairway to Hell can stand on its own two feet now, even though it has no actual feet. The book must walk out there and make its way in the world. If it gets run over, falls foul to drugs or becomes a member of Coldplay, well, at least I tried.

But it's doing OK so far, if reports are to be believed. Rob Chilver in Adventures with Words had this to say:

Williams’ prose is punchy, filthy and funny, littered with musical references and sideswipes at the state of the music industry today. The plot takes on a variety of twists and turns with some truly laugh out loud moments. While, the premise may sound bizarre, and it is, Williams creates a world and its character where by the end of the novel, bodyswapping and exploding record shops seem to be the norm. For those looking for a witty, entertaining and original read, this is a must.

You know, that makes me want to go right out and buy eight copies of the book. And I wrote it! Then there's Andrew Collins in The Word:
Charlie Williams' committedly silly novel about the eternal Faustian pact of pop stardom is difficult to dislike. A vivid turn of phrase ("chewing air" after puking up), witty touches (the pretense of teen idol Zak Bremner summed up in album titles Zakology and Bremnology) and fag machine philosophy (if you have an All Day Breakfast at breakfast time does it just become Breakfast?) sugar the pill of the ludicrous, scatological plot.

Ah, yes, the old pill sugar. I've never met a plot that couldn't be helped along with a shake of the sugar jar. Especially scatalogical ones. But "ludicrous"? "Commitedly silly"? Couldn't we just say "absurd"? Beckett was absurd. Ionesco and Genet were absurd. I don't mind rolling with those guys, even if I missed that scene by half a century. But I never heard of no "Theatre of the Ludicrous". Mind you, "committedly silly"... that sounds like you're so silly that you've been committed to a mental institution. That's no small accomplishment, I feel.

Of course, I josh. My book is lucky to even get noticed by Messrs Collins and Chilver, and I hope it said thank you and bowed politely (right before they chucked it in the Worcester County Pauper and Lunatic Asylum).

(For a taster of other Stairway to Hell reviews, check it out here.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's the tash...

Greatest ever fight scene:

(from various sources on Twitter)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Friends across the pond

I'm talking about the Atlantic, not that old soupy quagmire in my back garden. Have you American guys ever fancied a read of my new book, Stairway to Hell? Well, turns out you can get it cheap, right here at this Book Depository place. I have no idea how they do it, but it seems you can buy it for US$7.90 - FREE DELIVERY.

What the hell... might as well give it a go, right?

Go on.

While you're at it (or perhaps later, after you've gone on the Stairway), you could find out all about Royston Blake via DEADFOLK, which retails there at US$9.89 - again FREE DELIVERY.

How the hell is that done? Is it some kind of magic?

Is David Blaine involved?

Ours is not to ask, ours is to buy cheap (and read).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Couple of Stairway nods

I haven't seen these reviews in their entirety but these snippets look good:

This deserves attention for its sheer originality and author Williams's complete disregard for a conventional plot
--Sunday Business Post

Full of entertaining nonsense... Williams weaves a tight plot, his pacing and ear for dialogue pitch perfect
--Big Issue
I love that first one. To be honest, I don't know what a conventional plot is, and wasn't aware I was disregarding it. But yes, if a plot came along and said "Hi, I'm conventional", I would steer well clear of it. There are plenty of conventional writers out there to look after it. Shit, they'll be fighting over the thing.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Beatles

I'd like to celebrate the money-grubbing re-release of the entire Beatles back catalogue by pointing out that they played in the Worcester Gaumont not once but TWICE, first supporting Roy Orbison and then headlining. Another act to play at the Gaumont was David Bowie, as Ziggy Stardust. Erm... Hey, I just thought of something! I've actually written a novel that features both Bowie AND the Gaumont! Isn't that a coincidence? Not only that, but the Beatles are mentioned, as is David Soul.

So, instead of shelling out your hard-earned for a cleaned-up version of something you've heard many times before, maybe you should invest in something new, original and "brilliant" (the Guardian)?

What? Me, plug my own work? What are you talking about? It's topical.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

"Hmm... those stairs don't look so safe..."

No problem - now you can give them a trial run. The first stair, at least. Those cheeky monkeys at Amazon UK have forced open the covers of Stairway to Hell, allowing you to read the opening chapter free of charge. Give it a go. If it feels like the whole structure is going to collapse, well, you're wrong. But don't take my word for it, just jump off. No harm done. Except to yourself, by missing out on a book described in the Irish Times as a "mad, alternative rock ‘n’ roll universe, where ordinary people are possessed by the souls of past rock stars, and bizarre rituals involving urine become commonplace. The rock’n’roll in-jokes come faster than Zep riffs, and the cringe factor is cranked up all the way to the final showdown at the X-Factor auditions..."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Signing 2: Gloucester

Did the second leg of the "Stairway to Hell Tour 2009" last Saturday at Gloucester Waterstones. Things got off to a good start - by pure chance I chose the dodgiest car park in town and was greeted with the smell of urine-soaked concrete, making me feel right at home. Ten minutes later I'd found the store and was sitting upstairs, enjoying a complimentary coffee, gearing myself up for whatever lay ahead. I admit it, I was nervous. Even after doing all this in Birmingham the week before, my little heart was all aflutter. 'Don't worry, you'll rock them. Just like I did in Berlin, 1989,' a voice said behind me. I turned - no one there, only a couple of middle-aged ladies two tables along. And that was a man's voice, wasn't it? Quietly, in case people thought I was nuts, I asked who had said that. 'Me, David Hasselhoff.'

Oh yeah. I should have known.

So I went downstairs, listening David Hasselhoff's words of encouragement. 'You gotta hit them hard,' he was saying, adjusting his leather glove (he had his pet eagle with him). 'Don't take no for an answer. Don't even take yes for an answer. Just when they're coming round to the idea of buying your book, that's when you need to push even harder. See that button there?' Where? 'There, on the front of the book.' We were at the table now, next to a pile of STAIRWAY TO HELLs. I picked one up and examined it. No button. 'There is. Right there, see?' No, that's a "3 for 2" sticker. 'No, trust me, it's a button. A Turbo Boost button.'


I made a start on the job in hand. At 11am on a Saturday morning, Waterstones in Gloucester is not a rocking place. A nice place, but not yet fully rocking. The only people milling around my area were past retirement age. Which is great, but... Well, I thought I'd give it a try. After all, I have a hot property here. The new series of TV's X Factor is on telly, and my book offers a direct resposte to it's glossy, sentimental lowest common denominator-iness. What we have here, my friends, is a piece of the zeitgeist.

So I approach one or two browsing customers, aged about 65 or so. You know the X Factor? 'Yeah, don't like it.' Well that's good, because I don't like it either. 'Oh, OK...' [continues browsing...] And, you see, my book doesn't like it either. 'Your book doesn't like the X Factor?'

OK, so I've lost him. Try someone else... Do you like crime books? 'Yeah.' Great, well I've written three of them. But this new one, it isn't really crime. 'Oh...' No, but it's better! It's about a luckless pub singer who finds out he has the soul of David Bowie. 'I like John Harvey. Is it like his books?' Exactly like them, yes. 'It isn't, is it?' No.

I'm back at my table, thinking things over. 'You don't believe me, do you?' said David Hasselhoff. He was standing behind me, pretending to read a copy of Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany, by Charles S. Maier. 'You think I'm wrong about the Turbo Boost.' I just... I don't even want to think about the Turbo Boost. 'It's there for you, Charlie. Use the Turbo Boost. We all need a bit of Turbo Boost sometimes. Even me, when I knocked down the Berlin Wall.' Shut up about the Turbo Boost!

A few customers turn to look at me, then quickly avert their eyes. OK, so at least they've noticed me now. Let's try a new tack...

Hi, I'm a local author. 'Oh yeah? You're from Gloucester?' No, Worcester. 'Well, that's not really the same, is it?' No but it's only about twenty miles away. 'Yeah but it's not local is it? To be a local author, you must be from Gloucester. Or at least the surrounding county.' Yeah but... 'What?' Nothing.

Back at my table again, Half an hour gone and no joy. I look around: not a friendly soul in sight. Not even David Hasselhoff. But no one is looking, so... I press the button.

The Turbo Boost button.

'Excuse me, but if you're looking for a interesting third option on the 3 for 2 promo, you might want to look at this.' That's what I'm saying to the customers now, then leaving the book in their hands, smiling, and moving on, unless they look like they want more of a pitch. Ninety minutes later, 10 books signed and sold. Not great, but DOUBLE FIGURES!

Driving home along the M5 motorway, I reflected on how I'd sold out there, resorting to an economic angle in trying to sell a book that should speak for itself. 'Yeah, but only a fool ignores the buck. Money first, artistic integrity second. That's what I always said to Billy Warlock, when we were working on season one of Baywatch. Oh, and could you turn the car around? I think I left my pet eagle in that place back there.' I take a sideways glance at him, then ask a question. 'Seatbelt?' he says. 'Did you ever see Michael Knight wearing a seatbelt? No, and you won't see the Hoff wearing one either.'

I reach over, open the passenger door and push him out.

Many thanks to the staff of Gloucester Waterstones for letting me do this, erm... event. Next Saturday, the final leg of "Stairway to Hell Tour 2009" will be at Mangel. I mean, Worcester. Will I see you there? I promise there will be no deranged celebrities.


Monday, August 31, 2009

Worcester News

Bit late this, but if you're in Worcester, check out today's Worcester News - on page nine is a feature/interview with me by Mike Pryce, who actually interviewed Jimi Hendrix in 1969 when he played at the Gaumont. Accompanying the interview is a gurning photo of me, holding up a copy of Stairway to Hell, standing outside the bingo hall that used to be the Gaumont. I'll post it up here some time.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Other Stairways 2

Found on Twitter, courtesy of one DanH_Distinct, another Stairway to Hell:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Other Stairways

That Aussie band yesterday got me thinking... What other Stairways to Hell are out there?

Check out this one, a photograph of that title by one Guido Musch...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bits 'n Bobs

In Milton Keynes? Go down the main Waterstones in Midsummer Place and you should find some signed copies of my new book on the shelf. Hey, since you're there, maybe you should buy one?

You know this STAIRWAY TO HELL tour I'm in the middle of, where I do all these in-store signings? Well, I've got some competition down under... from very loud people. Bet they're not as loud as these guys.

Four reasons to go and get STAIRWAY TO HELL:

  1. Waterstones have it in their 3 for 2 promo
  2. Borders are a cool bookshop who encouraged me to be aggressive, like Rocky
  3. You should support your local independant bookstore
  4. Amazon UK have it at the blisteringly cheapo price of £4.79

Hey, I'm going to FantasyCon 2009, in Nottingham on the 19th September. To put this into context, I once had a story published in the BFS magazine. See you there maybe.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Signing 1: Birmingham

Had my first crack at hand-selling my books on Saturday when I did a signing at Borders in the middle of Birmingham. Let me make this clear: this was not a signing like Ian Rankin does a signing. When Rankin does a signing, he sits at a desk and signs and chats for a queue of fans. Someone at my level, there's no queue a fans. There is a table and a chair and a pile of books and a whole lot of people ignoring you.

I say it's my first crack, but I had an opportunity to do this a couple of times before. At French (and Belgian) book festivals, they expect you to put in the hours in the dealer area, signing your way down a stack of books. I detected a lot of competition between the authors in trying to push their books, but I wasn't having any of it. It's hard enough talking up your books to a stranger in English, let alone French.

So the obvious question is: Why the hell would I voluntarily put myself through this when no one had asked me to? Three reasons:

  1. I wanted to do something for my new book, which is going to have to compete with the summer's big releases in a market which is already saturated. On top of that, people are hardly splashing their cash around at the minute.
  2. Why the hell not? I believe in the book, why not get out there and say it?
  3. I am a masochist.

So I set up three in-store signings, this being the first.

OK, so the people at Borders very kindly agreed to let me do the event, and set up a table for me in the fiction area with posters front and back of the store. I get there, the books are stacked up tastefully by a nice bookselling person. I can sense a certain lack of faith in one or two of the staff. Do I look that gormless? Possibly, but I am told the problem is that this is not the best kind of Borders store to do this kind of thing. You need a Borders on a retail park, where people go specifically to get books. A city centre Borders is full of people just passing through or killing a few minutes while the wife is trying on skirts in Monsoon. Be aggressive, I am advised. Walk around and talk to them. Seems there is a well-known crime writer who has had a couple of signing events there and that's what he does, to great effect.

Hmm... I'm thinking. Aggressive. Like a boxer. Like... Rocky.

I'm all set to start wandering around being aggressive when a passing customer stops and looks at the books. I blurt something out about David Bowie and it catches - her husband is a fan. A read of the blurb and a bit of a chat later and she's getting me to sign two for her. Man, that was easy. If I can replicate that every five minutes, that's 48 copies in two hours. Piece of piss!

For the next ten minutes, no one else stops at the table. This is despite me blurting random things about Bowie. And urine.

I look at the cover. Maybe Bowie isn't so popular after all? Maybe it's Jimmy Page they want?

Another quiet ten minutes later and I'm looking at the cover again, wondering what's going wrong. Maybe I should drop the Jimmy Page line. And ditch the urine gambit as well, lest people think I'm telling them to piss off. Maybe it's time to take that piece of advice: Get out there and be aggressive.

I walk up and down a couple of aisles, snarling, picturing myself as a prime Rocky Balboa on his way to the ring in Soviet Russia, about to face the unstoppable machine that is Ivan Drago. Eye of the tiger, the ghost of Apollo Creed is whispering in my ear. Eye of the tiger! My fists are balled and I'm ready to beat someone into buying the book. Should be easy: a couple of jabs and then drop 'em with an overhand right, following up with a left hook on the way down, then just drag them to the counter and get their wallet out for them. But I can't seem to do it. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to beat someone into buying my book and getting it signed by me. I've never been good at throwing the first punch, and it's no different now. Besides, these are my kind of people: book people. How could I physically attack them?

So I wander back to my table, thinking. What would Mickey say, if he hadn't died of that heart attack brought on by the evil Clubber Lang? "Just take a look at youse!" he'd snarl. "Call yourself a writer? You're a bum!" Then he'd calm down and say something like: "What is this? A circus? Are we clowns? No! We're trapeze artists, flying through the air for the amusement of all these people. Except we're doing it between the covers of that damn book, which they don't even know about! Now get out there and whip up an audience! Bark like a dog, you no good Irish bum!" Then he hobbles off to the art section and leafs through a book on nude photography.

Mickey's right, of course. One of my great-great-grandparents was indeed from Clones. But how did he know that?

I work out a tactic: approach people (politely - no snarling or balled fists) and show them the cover of STAIRWAY TO HELL. Ask them if they recognise who those two guys are. They know Bowie alright, but most of them seem to think the other one is Marc Bolan. I don't know what to do about that, but it doesn't matter: I'm already talking to him or her by this stage. We're away from the cover and talking about what the book is about, why I wrote it etc. Some of these conversations lead to a signing, some don't. Most are fun and interesting, hopefully, for both parties.

At the end of two hours, I'd signed nine. "You're a bum!" Mickey's shouting. And he's right. Nine? Jeez... Then the staff guy wanders back and I ask him just how many that well-known crime writer signs when he comes. "Nineteen." So Maybe nine isn't so bad for this store, and I can go away and not feel like such a loser. "Crap!" Mickey's screaming. "You're a no-good, Irish, scum-sucking b--" I shove a sweaty towel in his mouth. Mickey, why all the negativity? Why not just chill out?

I go home, leaving him on the floor behind me, having another heart attack.

Do you know what? Mickey's wrong. That book is not a trapeze act and I'm no circus barker. It's a high wire act, like all good books are. And I'm a relatively unknown writer, putting myself out there and trying to make myself a bit more known. Even if a conversation leads to a signing and a sale, I'm still making someone aware of my book and myself. Maybe they'll think about my book and buy it later. Maybe they'll see my next book and remember me. Either way, it's a bit of exposure.

Thanks to all at Borders in Birmingham for letting me do it. And to all the people who showed an interest. Even that guy who came in the hope that he was going to get this guy's autograph (I had to break the news of his death).

Next Saturday I've got another one lined up at Waterstones in Gloucester. If you're around, do drop in and see how I'm doing in my pursuit for that elusive 10 books. Mickey's not invited to this one, and neither are Rocky, Ivan Drago or Apollo Creed. But I think David Hasselhoff might be there, so you could try and get his autograph.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Upwards and Brum

This post puts the number for the year at 39, which makes it higher than last year and we're only in August. If you look at the archives down there on the right, you'll see that I've been dropping off badly year on year, but that's all over. I'm born again, baby. I'm out there amongst them. Like my new book, STAIRWAY TO HELL, which is in shops NOW.

Talking of which, I'll be signing copies of that baby at Borders in the Bull Ring, Birmingham (West Midlands, not Alabama) tomorrow from 1pm. If you're around, drop by and I will tell you the secrets of the universe. Otherwise, come back here next week and I'll let you know how it goes. But I won't tell you those universe secrets. To get those, you need to get a copy of STAIRWAY TO HELL signed by me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stairway to Hell, or how I uncovered one of rock 'n roll's greatest conspiracies

It is August 20th, which means Stairway to Hell is published today. It also means that the X Factor (US readers, it is the Brit version of American Idol) is back on UK TV screens this Saturday. But we'll gloss over that - there will be enough media fanfare for the latest round of TV's favourite talent show, and precious little for my book (although some people have been very kind). So let me make up for it here, with a humble blog post.

I don't even remember where I first read or heard that in 1975 David Bowie used to store his urine in the fridge to stop warlocks (in particular Jimmy Page) from using it to harm him. It might have been in Nicholas Pegg's The Complete David Bowie, which I read years ago. Looking at it now, two sentences regarding the background to the album Station to Station stand out:

Tales abound of black candles, bottled urine, bodies falling past windows, witches stealing David's semen, demons attacking him in photographs, the exorcism of the swimming pool, the CIA infiltrating his movie-making plans, and the Rolling Stones sending him messages in their record sleeves.
What David later referred to as his "wayward spiritual search" had begun in New York in early 1975 when he met Kenneth Anger, the author of Hollywood Babylon whose film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome was an exploration of the neo-pagan warlock Aleister Crowley, a figure who famously attracted the attention of Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page at around the same time (a groundless suspicion that Page meant him harm was reportedly another of David's myriad neuroses during the period).
Obviously the phrases in bold were the ones that lodged in my head. The urine was being stashed away to stop baddies from getting their hands on it. Which baddies? Jimmy Page. And that got me thinking... What if Bowie wasn't careful enough? What if Page managed to get hold of some of that urine?

What was he going to do?

I don't know about you, but I have a love/hate relationship with Bowie's music. Most stuff up to and including 1980's Scary Monsters, I love it. After that, well, we all know what he went and did. He came up with Let's Dance, which made him a global superstar and rang the death knell for whatever strange creative genius he had. He achieved massive commercial success with that album, but it was watered down pop compared to most of his earlier stuff. It was as if someone had taken the soul out of his body and switched it with that of a lesser mortal. But who could have done such a thing? What kind of occult-dabbling, long-haired rock guitarist whose name rhymes with Timmy Sage could have meant him harm?

But that's crazy, right? Everyone knows that in order for someone like, say, Jimmy Page to switch Bowie's soul with that of a lesser mortal, he would have to find a lesser mortal. And where would a rock superstar find a lesser mortal?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I was born and raised in Worcester, a place which has an interesting history. The city can be traced back to 400BC, when a walled village existed on the banks of the River Severn. In the first century, the Romans turned it into a fort and thriving industrial town. In 1651, the English Civil War was decided here when Charles II was defeated at the Battle of Worcester. In the late 20th Century, members of Led Zeppelin are known to have frequented the Lamb and Flag, a pub on the A38, North of the city centre. Around the same time, in the maternity ward of the nearby Royal Infirmary, a plentiful supply of lesser mortals were being born. Also around the same time (June, 1973) David Bowie played one of his last ever Ziggy Stardust gigs at The Gaumont - mere yards from both the Lamb and Flag AND the Royal Infirmary.

See what you can turn up with a bit of digging?

Now, let's fast-forward 30-odd years from the time, post-Scary Monsters and pre-Let's Dance, when the deed might have been done. Meet Rik Suntan, local pub singer, winner of the Pub Idol for two years running and unwitting host of David Bowie's soul. Except it's not unwitting anymore - his manager, Ted Regis, has spilled the beans. He's worked it all out, plus a few other bits and bobs.

Some of you reading this might think I'm nuts. Fair point, but consider this: Bowie believed someone might use his urine to harm him. Jimmy Page believed he could get things done with black magic. Ted Regis believed that David Bowie's stolen soul was inside Rik Suntan, and that Rik Suntan's was in David Bowie. Rik Suntan, even before all this, believed he was destined for pop superstardom. Thousands of lesser mortals, in the opening rounds of the X Factor, American Idol and any other glossy TV talent show, believe they have what it takes to be the next Christina, Justin or Beyoncé.

They're delusional, aren't they? Yeah, 'course they are. And we're all a bit delusional, if you look close enough. Maybe in small ways, and to no great extent, but we've all had unrealistic ideas about ourselves from time to time. We keep a check on those ideas, staying in touch with reality and disappointment. But what happens if you don't? What if you commit everything to that delusion - your life, your future, your soul? My guess is that it leads you down the Stairway to Hell.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Magnus time

From an interview in the Telegraph:

What do fellow drivers make of his writing? Mills stretches in his Metroline
jacket, pale-eyed, tall and lanky. "They tend to forget. A couple of them have
got my books but I don't know if they've read them. One inspector read my last
book and was quite interested."

This is the number two reason why I am such a fan of Magnus Mills: he has no writer's ego whatsoever. Which probably goes some way to explaining the number one reason: he is simply a great, great writer. Uncluttered, unfussy, unique, seemingly unambitious and yet effortlessly getting at more truth that the "deepest" Booker winner.

His new book - THE MAINTENANCE OF HEADWAY - is out now.

The Morning Stair

Indie Purcel reviews STAIRWAY TO HELL in Tuesday's Morning Star:

"Stairway To Hell will leave you feeling confused, bemused and amused - a rare
read, which is both disturbing and hilarious. Definitely worth having on
your bookshelf. "

I can only agree... especially when you consider that Stairway To Hell really does have a beautiful spine, with bits of fire on it and at least FOUR different fonts. I can't argue with the other things in the review, either. Although personally I was neither confused nor bemused when I read it. I read it at the same time as I wrote it, actually, and found it pretty compelling stuff. I had to write super-fast just to get to the next bit.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

One shot 1

I am sometimes gripped by a burning question that I have to ask just about everyone. So I decided to indulge it this time... I went ahead and asked a load of great writers what they thought, and most of them were kind enough to give me a response. I present those responses here for you to check out.

Please have a look at all of them. You may find that your favourite ones are spread out all over and not all stacked at the front. Many thanks to all who responded.

You may think this question is a bit basic, but probably that's why I like it:

"When it's going well, what does writing feel like for you?"

I suppose it's like swimming underwater - head down, no coming up for air, getting lost in the depths. But in a good way and with no lingering smell of chlorine.

..... Matt Haig's books include The Last Family in England and children's book The Runaway Troll

Like heroin addicts say...........kissing God

..... Ken Bruen's books include Rilke on Black and The Guards

I don't like to resort to self-quotation. But, in this case, I once tried to answer the same question, and said something that I don't think I can say any better now. The article was called 'Writing' and was published in Poetry Review: 'When the writing is going well (I am avoiding the word inspired) it feels as if someone has taken my brain out and filled my head with a very cheap and chemical-heavy soft drink – orangeade or cherryade; I call it this state "headfizz". The bubbly liquid being shaken up behind my eyes is brightly-coloured, almost day-glo (this brightness is the manifestation of a kind of internal embarrassment); I would assume, if at this moment brainscan were to be taken, the synapses would be seen to be getting themselves in something of a lather.' There's another thing I might add. When the writing is going extremely well, I begin to lose interest in it. I feel like walking away from the desk, because the writing would - it seems - continue even if I weren't there. Not to stop feels very silly. If it's this easy, surely it can't be worth doing.

..... Toby Litt's books include deadkidsongs and Journey into Space

When I'm writing good it's like I've disappeared into a movie, time just stops.

..... Willy Vlautin, author of Motel Life and Northline and lead singer with Richmond Fontaine

When it's going well, writing feels like very slowly and incrementally solving an astronomically complex puzzle, with a symbiotic balance between how hard it is and how rewarding it feels to make progress.

..... Christopher Brookmyre's books include Quite Ugly One Morning and Pandemonium

When it's really going well, it doesn't feel like anything at all, because I am completely absorbed in the writing. But far more frequently I find it's not going as well as that and it feels a lot like work.

..... Jonathan Trigell, author of Boy A and Cham

It's very rare for me to feel that writing's going well - I have a hypercritical eye and a melancholic disposition which doesn't lend itself to satisfaction - good writing always seems to be the goal rather them the accomplishment.

However, occasionally, there's a kind of Zen occurrence which is a bit like a dream of flying or running without effort. Then it seems as if everything you see, read, overhear in a bus queue, every song on your iPod, is informing your thinking - you aren't even thinking any more, you're simply open to messages from the ether - and suddenly, briefly, you know what you're doing. It was all there in your own head and all you had to do was get out of your own way.

I wish it would happen right now because I can't seem to describe the experience without sounding like a root vegetable.

..... Liza Cody's books include Monkey Wrench and Gimme More

It feels like the opening to Toots and the Maytals "54-46 Was My Number"

..... Ray Banks's books include Saturday's Child and Beast of Burden

It feels like runner's high times a ten--a relaxed, euphoric, optimistic state that no drug I've tried can reproduce.

..... Jason Starr's books include Fake I.D and Panic Attack

It feels like I'm watching someone else's movie, complete with soundtrack and cinematography. Most of the time I have an idea of the next scene already in my head the day before, or sometimes I carry it around a week or longer, but when I sit down to actually write it I see it more clearly than I had previously--the difference between storyboards, script pages, and the final real deal on film. I learn how to write that scene, figuring out what in my original vision works and what doesn't, by visualizing.

..... Anthony Neil Smith's books include Psychosomatic and Hogdoggin'

One student I was teaching said: "It's the best feeling in the world!" quickly adding; "Not counting sex of course!" But he's not wrong. How can it be anything else when you play God all day? Not some fakey Christian vengeful God, but you know... God-God? Sometimes people ask me what I've been up to. I usually say: "Oh, you know -- deciding who lives, who dies." But that's more or less it. How can you not love it? It sure beats real life, or whatever they call that thing that lurks outside the front door.

Of course, as the postcard on my wall says in big letters: "Other People Ruin Everything". And that couldn't be truer than for the tortured world of the screenwriter. (But let's not get into what it feels like when it isn't going well... that's a whole 'nother question!)

My favourite part is typing "THE END" and feeling that there is something there, a story, a script, an entity, a thing, which (good, bad or indifferent) didn't exist before. And guess what? It came out of my head. All of it. I like best of all the secrecy and privacy of noodling an idea, as Salvador Dali rolled a rock round inside his mouth, to feel the pleasure when he took it out.

At best, writing is like channelling. I always thought it was bollocks, that thing about characters demanding what they wanted to do, resisting the direction you wanted to push them: but I have to admit it's true, even for a control freak planner and outliner like me, and that can be thrilling; buzzing on too much coffee late at night, beyond tired, beyond the deadline, way beyond the deadline, when the spooks come out and tap your shoulder and the best ideas ping in from the ether or the id... wherever it is, I bow to it because those ones are worth the wait and they don't feel they're from you but that doesn't mean they aren't from you; just that you feel that. And that feels good. (Even if it is bollocks.)

Finally, and many writers will agree with this... the hardest thing to learn is getting out of the way and letting the story happen. And when you feel it has, not because you forged it with hammer and anvil, bleeding and sweating, but it was already there, waiting... that's like lightning in a bottle. Rare. Precious. Illuminating. And not a little weird.

..... Steve Volk, screenwriter (Gothic, Ghostwatch, Afterlife) and author of the short story collection Dark Corners

It feels like I've tapped something in my head and am suddenly peering into a part I didn't know was there---words, pictures I barely recognize. It doesn't happen much, but when it does, well, it's the best thing. It's like dreaming someone else's dream.

..... Megan Abbott's books include The Song is You and Queenpin

When writing's going well for me, it's equal parts exhaustion and exhilaration; it's utter fun; it makes cocaine seem like aspirin (that's glib, I know, but it's true). It makes you feel that you might not be a complete gobshite after all. That your birth has a purpose. That you're the first to set foot on a wonderful and mysterious island full of dangerous but beautiful animals an women and cataracts made of wine.

..... Niall Griffiths' books include Kelly and Victor and Runt

I don't think writing ever goes well. Or hardly ever. It only goes different degrees of badly. And on those extremely rare occasions that it does go well, it feels terrifying and vertiginous, because previous experience tells me I'm either deceiving myself or drunk or, most likely, deceiving myself because drunk. I'm afraid I regard writing in much the same way I think of going for a run or to church - really hard to make the effort to start, fundamentally depressing during ... but I do get a rush when I come out the other side knowing that I've in some way exercised my soul.

..... Patrick Neate's books include Twelve Bar Blues and Jerusalem

I honestly can't remember.

..... Allan Guthrie's books include Kiss Her Goodbye and Slammer

When the writing is going well it feels like I'm passing a kidney stone the size and shape of a spiked mace. When it's not going well, it's worse.

..... Tom Piccirilli's books include A Choir of Ill Children and Shadow Season

For me it's a bit like one of those cgi animations of DNA strands or other biological components locking together, very colourful textured shapes joining up with other shapes in space. It's hyperdimensional and the shapes have vibrations and temperature and so on, and I'm manipulating this environment. The shapes are ideas, obviously. It's part of the synaesthetic thing that I have, and it's a trip. Physically it's a bit like a tornado blowing through the room, and my eyes are absolutely pinned open.

..... Steve Aylett's books include Slaughtermatic and Lint

I wish I could remember. If I think back and try to block out all distracting thoughts, I'm getting a taste of freedom, a sense of exhilaration, empowerment, fun.

..... Nicholas Royle's books include The Matter of the Heart and Antwerp

Thomas Mann wrote A writer is a man for whom writing is more difficult than it is for others. Without wanting to sound precious, writing is something I find difficult. Every day at my desk is a challenge, a potential uphill trek in cement boots and a suit of 15th century armour.

A good day, for me, is one where I find a shortcut around the hill. In other words, when I actually get quite a bit done and I’m pleased with it. It’s a good feeling. A wave of benevolence spreads over me. I'm nice to people. I actually manage to smile. Of course, it never lasts. Happiness in writing is even more fleeting than it is in life. The shortcut simply leads to another hill. A sharper, steeper one where the ground has been greased and spiked and mined. And, this time, there's no shortcut. You have to go the long, hard way. It's either that or your last day job. My benevolence fizzles out. I morph back into a scowling, gimlet-eyed misanthropist and take my first difficult step ... Fuck happiness! Let's suffer all the way to The End.

..... Nick Stone's books include Mr Clarinet and King of Swords

It feels great, Charlie. I love it when it's going well, and it always goes well if I've planned it properly.

..... Daren King's books include Boxy an Star and Manual

When it's going well, I feel settled and at peace.

..... Sean Black is the author of Lockdown

Like I know what I'm doing. Like not only can I finish this book/story/play, but I may well even be able to manage another one after that. Like not only will they not 'find me out', but there's actually nothing to find out - I can do this. It feels like I imagine it might feel for someone working in wood or stone or marble, who really knows what they're doing, who lets the grain tell them what to do and can find the right places to cut, to hew, to crash, to smooth, without too much thought and as much by sense as by sight, letting the piece guide their hands. It feels great. And in truth, if I let it, it also feels scary, because I know it won't, can't last, and that while it's working I need to really use that time, because there will be another day, another hour, when it simply isn't going well at all, and when it feels as if it may never go well again. It's not often that bad, often it just is, just the job - daily, weekly, monthly, keeping going. Sometimes painful, more often ordinary, and sometimes, every now and then, totally joyous. I don't mind the ordinary - it is my work after all. I try not to mind the other two extremes either.

..... Stella Duffy's books include Calendar Girl and The Room of Lost Things

Boys never talk about their feelings, Charlie, you know that.

..... Daren King's books also include Tom Boler and Jim Giraffe

It's a feeling as if I've moved beyond everyday things and I've somehow found a spot where no one else can go, at least not until I finish, and maybe never in the same way I went there. Its sexual and it's meditative at the same time, it's something that makes you feel as if you transcended reality and that you are existing on another and higher plane of existence. For a while.

..... Joe R. Lansdale's books include Freezer Burn and Vanilla Ride

I am an utterly commonplace man. I lack drive and any ability to lift me much beyond the merely average. I can be cowardly and irritable and isolative and proud. I've never been able to commit to much and tend towards a self-indulgent existential futility. It's a real effort to do things. But. When I write; when it takes off: I'm a fucking god.

..... Paul Meloy is the author of the short story collection Islington Crocodiles

I rarely admit this, but for some reason your abrupt question makes me want
to blurt out the truth: when it is going well, I feel like dancing, and I often
do, alone, like Billy Idol.

..... Jonathan Lethem's books include Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Updated my site

That means Please take a look and let me know if you find something that doesn't work. And let's be careful out there.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Cool thing coming to this blog...

...on Thursday this week. What is it? Interviews. With 20+ authors across different genres and forms, some established, some emerging and ALL on top of their game, writing-wise. How do I do this? How can I bring you so many interviews all in one go?

Because I ask each interviewee only one question.

The SAME question.

Does that sound like something you can dig? I sure do hope so, because it's the only way I can conduct interviews. I'm a one-question kind of guy. But I think you will like what I bring you, courtesy of some very generous and honest writers.

So, Thursday. What do we call this new form*? One Shot. Gotta call it something.

*New to me.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Quick off the mark

Check out today's Guardian for a review of STAIRWAY TO HELL. It's a bit early. THREE WEEKS early, and anyone digging the review will find that there are no copies of the book in shops yet. But hey, I'm not complaining. Shit, I'm celebrating! So if you've found this after reading the review, please check bookshops after August 20th, which is the book's publication date. And you can always pre-order.

Also, just noticed: the book is reviewed under "Science Fiction, fantasy amd horror". I guess that makes me a genre hopper. FWIW, I reckon this book could also be general fiction, black comedy or even crime. I didn't really write it with a genre in mind but everything seems to have seeped in.

Friday, July 31, 2009

You follow me?

Hey, I have been messing around with page elements and stuff on the side panel, and have gone for one of those google friend connect widgets. Please, if you will, click on "Join this site", then you can keep up with what's going on in the wasteland that is my mind. Do it for any other blogs you like, too. It's a cool thing.

Pickin' up my boots

An update on the "hittin' the road" thing I was raving about a while back... I have set up signings at three venues:

Saturday, Aug 22, 1pm: Borders, The Bullring, Birmingham
Saturday, Aug 26, 11am: Waterstones, Eastgate Street, Gloucester
Saturday, Sep 05, 11am: Waterstones, The Shambles, Worcester

I could have set up more but it's probably best to see how these ones go first. I'm not the world's best salesman and there is no telling I will sell a single book. So... if you are around Brum, Glocs. or "the Wu" on any of those dates, I would love to shake your hand. Let me pitch the new book to you personally, pointing out its finer points and where it beats out the competition. I might even throw in a free Trucoat sealant, which combats oxidation problems.

Fragen Dazs

A little noir-themed Q&A with me over at the German site It is in English, so chill out and go take a look. Also have a rummage around the rest of this great site - interviews with Jason Starr, Al Guthrie, Vicki Hendricks and many others.

A big danke to Myron Buennagel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Genre Schmenre

(That title doesn't really work, does it? Ah well...)

Interested to read on Confessions that Booker-winner John Banville turns out twenty pages of a crime book to every "literary" page he writes. Not to get into the "slumming it" debate, but perhaps this is because crime is a natural form for Banville? Maybe he feels comfortable writing it, and not constrained by the pressure to strike for whatever it is literary novels are meant to strike for. Maybe, in an parallel universe where crime fiction gets all the snobbish kudos and literary fiction is seen as slumming it, he would be doing twenty lit pages to every one of crime?

FWIW, I think it's best not to even think of genre when writing. Thinking up a premise, maybe genre comes into it. But once you're off and writing, just get your head down and do what you do.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hark the Scat-man

As you know, I hate to blow my own horn. I mean, that's sick, right? And pretty hard to do. But I must direct you towards this review of KING OF THE ROAD by the refreshingly profane Nerd of Noir:

In case you're not getting this, dear reader, I'm saying that you should pick up this fucking book toot-fucking-sweet. Damn it, read the whole trilogy. You'll thank me. Least you will if you're a sick fucker who likes shocks, laughs, and poop-mouth in your reading material (which is kind of a pre-requisite for this site, you know).
I still can't understand why KING OF THE ROAD didn't win the Booker Prize. But it goes without saying I love this review.

Friends of mine, the trilogy of which he speaks is still around. It is primed and oiled and ready for deployment out of here, here or a decent bookshop near you.

NB: Flush! An Ode to Toilets is not a part of the trilogy. Ahem.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hittin' the road

I am going to be doing a bit of back-to-basics promotion for Stairway to Hell: in-store signings. I never did one of these before. I've done the after-hours reading events but they seem a bit arrogant for a non-famous author, presuming the mountain will come to Mohammed (which it mostly doesn't - lazy mountain!). So Mo is going to be strapping on his hiking boots and hitting that mountain trail, setting himself up at a desk right there in the shop on a Saturday. (Er, Mo is me, right? Not Mo Hayder. Sorry.) To that end...

Please drop me a line if you know of any author-signing-friendly bookshops where the punters might be interested in a book about a pub singer, two superstars of rock, armed robbery and everyday market town black magic. Got the local angle covered already: Waterstones in Worcester (details forthcoming).

(And yes, somewhere out there is a font called FrankMiller.ttf. And a procrastinating author.)

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's alive! Almost...

Like something created by Herbert West or Baron von Frankenstein, STAIRWAY TO HELL has now grown not only a spine but a back also. It is taking shape, friends of mine. Soon it will have pages. Later on, if the correct blood sacrifice can be found, WORDS will appear on those pages. And then fingers will hold the covers open and eyes will read those words.

Your eyes? A man can hope.

Friday, July 03, 2009

No architect, no building

If you have a writer credit on IMDB (even just one, for a small but perfectly formed film that operates on several levels and is visually stunning), you will know why this is good news. For me, the director is the creative head honcho of a film and it is ultimately his or her baby. But the writer is where it all starts. Everything spawns from the guy or gal holding the pen.

Monday, June 29, 2009


Took a few photos yesterday as research for a new novel. These shots will be printed and maybe put up on a notice board, maybe tossed in a drawer. either way, they will probably never be looked at again. I don't need photographs for reference, only for inspiration. I kind of believe that the mere act of pointing a camera at a thing and capturing it in pixels will turn a switch somewhere in my mind. Sometimes it's an image from a newspaper or google. Either way, you print it and file it.

Same with notes. I've kept notebooks for years, jotting down whatever piece of crap of an idea takes my fancy. I do look back over those notebooks sometimes but it's a cringe-inducing experience. You have to brace yourself for the discovery you are about to make: that you are actually a bit thick. But there, in amongst all the detritus of the modern, overstimulated and undernourished mind, you find that piece of gold that you might be able to fashion into something really quite passable. And that one nugget makes it all worthwhile. You're a genius after all! OK, maybe not a genius. You're not a complete moron after all!

This is the kind of stuff that happens for me at the start of something new. Right now, hopefully, it's a novel. Characters, premises, plots and even set pieces are running around up there in the old swede, jostling for position like sperm that don't know which direction they're supposed to be swimming in. One of them will find the exit and fertilise the golden ovary of the blank Word document.

That, right there, is either the most awful metaphor in history.

Or the finest.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

To most of the people who come to this blog from Google...

This is what you're looking for:

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Button it

(NB: This post eventually comes around to writing, so bear with it if you know diddly squat about racing cars.)

If you're in the UK, you can't not have heard all about Mr Jensen Button, currently sitting way atop the Formula One driver's championship after six wins from seven races. You will have heard all about his story, the guy who - prior to this season - had won only one one race in nine years as a pro. Suddenly he's got maestro engineer Ross Brawn as his boss and it's all turned around. He's not only winning, but spanking the bare arses off the competition. (Erm, I didn't mean like that.)

Obviously, every man and his dominatrix puts it down to the car, not the driver.

Fair enough, but I think it's more subtle than that. In Jensen Button you have a driver who needs things to be just right. Things are off, he stops trying. He'll coast. He smiles to the outside world, secretly burning with frustration inside, waiting for something that might never come. But it did come: the Brawn GP car. Finally he has things just the way he wants them. The balance and movement of the car is perfectly attuned to his mind and body. He can operate it like an extension of himself. He can express himself in it.

Now, I said this would come around to writing and now it's going to. Over the past few years I've been having a bit of trial and error action with the novels I've been writing. There are one or two (written since KING OF THE ROAD - my last published one as we speak) that will never see the light of day. I was as surprised as anyone to learn that, and for a good long while I was smiling to the outside world, secretly burning with frustration inside. Then I made a discovery.

I am the Jensen Button of the book world.

(But without the money, fame, success etc...)

When I write a novel (not sure this holds for short stories) I need to feel like I'm in the skin of the narrator. I don't want to have to think hard about what he might do here, what reaction he might have to this comment or to that turn of events. That shit has to come naturally, man. If it feels like work, it is work. And I get enough of that in my day job. No, I truly believe - in fact, I know - that a brilliant novel can come from no more effort than applying arse to seat and repeating until done. If the conditions are right (ie: the author is right in the head of the narrator, playing him like Billy Preston on a Hammond organ) then the end product is gold.

I'm coming at this from the angle of first-person narrations. I don't really know how it applies to your third-person affairs. To be honest, that third-person stuff is like witchcraft to me. Telling the story through a character I can do, but tell the story yourself, talking about a bunch of people who don't exist? That's just weird. Third-person guys, I salute thee. (But I also fear you and your mysterious ways. So don't wave that necklace of shrunken heads anywhere near me, OK?)

I hope Jensen Button can pull it off and become world champion. I know he's a rich, pampered playboy type, but fuck it, the world needs those kind of guys. And it needs the kind of characters I can get along with.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I am Rock 'n Roll

Not only that, but INDIE rock 'n roll. That's how it feels to see my name mentioned on the Rough Trade website. We are talking biker jacket, spiky hair, syringe... the works. While it lasts, anyway.

Erm, I think it's worn off now. Where's my woolly jumper?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Hey sexy

Thanks a lot, "sexy" from Taipai (AKA for hitting a bunch of my blog posts with comments in what I can only assume is Taiwanese. I'm sure you're a fan of Royston Blake and the Mangel books, and wanted to express your admiration. Really, I had no idea the books had made it as far as Taiwan. Thank you for your kind words.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Nice to be remembered

This from the Nerd of Noir:

Charlie Williams hasn't given us a book since 2006 when he wrapped up the Mangel Trilogy, one of the most fucked up and hilarious series in recent years. Stairway to Hell marks his triumphant return. It's got soul-swapping and David Bowie and Jimmy Page sounds fucking insane is what I'm trying to say.
I can't be the judge of that, but I think I did go a bit loco in the writing of it. I'm of the opinion that letting yourself go for a while is a good thing for a writer. But sooner or later you're going to have to take a bath. And make sure your novel hangs together. Possibly at the same time.

Also cool (and daunting) to be anticipated alongside Jason Starr, Megan Abbott, Anthony Neil Smith and Victor Gischler (check the link above). Big cheers to Peter AKA Nerd of Noir.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Got a spare 45 quid?

Most people would stick it in their back pocket, go down the pub and blow it on beer, fags and fruit machines. Or maybe hit the bookies and put it on a horse.

Marc Price didn't. He chose to use his £45 to gatecrash Cannes with this baby:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Okay, band meeting...

Whoops, got cut off there yesterday. What, you thought I'd got bombed by a time-hopping Luftwaffe unit? Yeah, right.

In other news, I hope you're not missing season two of Flight of the Conchords. Watch out for ep5, directed by Michel Gondry of Eternal Sunshine and Science of Sleep etc. In fact check them all out. Then go back and check season one:

Thursday, May 21, 2009


There is a helicopter outside, hovering above the house. What is wrong with him? Why doesn't he go away? Those blades are churning my guts up and distracting me from... I dunno, whatever I was doing.

I'm told a bomb was dropped in my front garden during WW2, landing right on the spot where there is now a magnolia tree. You don't expect that out here in the sticks, but it seems the Nazi bomber was aiming for the old RAF base a couple of miles south and started popping caps on his approach. Not exactly the kind of thing that happens twice, but sometimes I look at that spot and wonder... What if there was a break in the space/time continuum? You never know.

Wait, maybe that helicopter outside is tracking someone? An escaped lunatic perhaps?

I'm off to check the back door. If I don't come back, I'm loon-fodder. You'll see it on the news: MAN GETS KILLED BY ESCAPED LUNATIC. Then they'll find out about my books, and swap "author" for "man". Journalists will find this post and use the WW2 bomb thing as a interesting bit of trivia. People will flock to my website until it gets shut down. My next book will come out postumously and go into multiple print runs due to the morbid curiosity factor.

Um, I just locked the back door, so I guess none of that will happen now. But wait... what's that sound? Not a helicopter now, definitely a plane. But not a jet, more like a... a Messerschmitt! Sounds like she's heading south, aimi

Monday, May 18, 2009

Paris, Radio and Trousers

A great time in Paris was had this weekend. Lisa and I sailed over a day early on the Eurostar and soaked up a few things (mostly beer and chocolate croissants). Next morning I did a radio interview with Radio Libertaire, France's official anarchist station. I did the whole thing in French, which I was a bit worried about beforehand but it went OK. I think. Anyway, if you're French and you heard some English twat babbling incomprehensibly on Saturday afternoon, it was me. Or Chris Waddle.

Later on that afternoon was the "humour in crime" panel at the Bilipo, where I shared the floor with the Colins Thibert and Bateman. The moderator was Natalie Beunat and it was a good session at a fascinating venue. If you're in Paris, check it out (especially the morbid displays in the foyer). After that, the Bateman and Williams entourages went in search of food and alcohol. It was great, but can I just say here that the traffic cone on top of the Eiffel Tower in the early hours of Sunday was nothing to do with me.

Talking of Colin, check out his new book, MYSTERY MAN. The logline is inspired: "Murder, mayhem and damn sexy trousers." That's the important things in life right there. And traffic cones.

In other news, a seal of approval has been given. Nothing to do with me really as I didn't design the cover, but it's a nice thing anyway.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

ARK at Cannes

More short film news - ARK has been chosen for the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival. It will be shown as part of the special selection "Don't Let The Bastards Grind You Down", a notion I wholeheartedly agree with. Check it out here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Twitter? More like sh...

Royston Blake is going to have a little adeventure in Twitter land, for want of anything better to do. Follow him if you must. I really don't think he gives a toss either way.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Coupla things

ARK has been selected for the festival of French and British cinema at le Touquet on 5-7 June. Check it out here with a couple of cool stills.

I have seen a copy of PAINT A VULGAR PICTURE: FICTION INSPIRED BY THE SMITHS and it is magic. What do you reck? Look out for my story "Sweet and Tender Hooligan" as well as great ones by John Williams, Kate Pullinger and Jeff Noon. Pick it up here for cheap, or at a book emporium near you from 28th May.

Talking of cheap, you seem to be able to pre-order my next book STAIRWAY TO HELL at for only £4.79. Can this be real?

Factoid about STAIRWAY TO HELL: Despite the outlandish premise it is based on true events.

Are you a Parisien(ne)? Do you like humour in crime books? Come and hear me roar at the Bibliothèque des Littératures Policières on Saturday May 16th at 17.30. I probably won't roar, actually.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Just realised, I've been writing for ten years this month. Ten bloody years. And when I say bloody, I mean it. As the great Charles Willeford once suggested, writing is a bloodsport. You tear your hair out for these stories and what do they do when you send them out into the world? Come slinking back, tail betwixt legs. Some don't. Some find a place in the culture, even if hardly anyone notices them. As long as they have a few admirers, everything's OK.

And we write on.

Monday, April 20, 2009

R.I.P. J.G.B.

J.G. Ballard was one of those writers who got my attention straight away. From the first page of CRASH I knew I had a real writer on my hands, someone who was going to meddle with the fabric of language itself as well as tell a story. His subjects were perverse and perverted, his humour omnipresent and always sly, his attitude subversive. For my money, a writer can aspire to nothing more.

It was one of his quieter novels that stood out most for me - CONCRETE ISLAND. I don't know if this is my favourite, but it's a definite case where I can see that a novel has influenced me. A set-up as simple as it gets - a guy finds himself somehow stranded on a traffic island on the main atery road out of West London. That is it. A real writer can take it from there and get some truth out of it, as well as a barrel-load of entertainment. That is what JGB did. Time and again.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Great review (I think) of LE ROI DU MACADAM and the other Blakey books in yesterday's le Figaro. Especially like the sound of this bit: "Le Roi du macadam est un festival de loufoquerie noire". Loufoquerie, love that word. Sounds a bit like... ah, never mind. Anyway, if you like loufoquerie too, check out KING OF THE ROAD, because it's a festival of it. Not only that, but a noire festival.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Here is the cover. Bit of a departure, huh? STAIRWAY TO HELL will not be out until August. I've got to wait until August! So have you. We're all in the same boat, friends.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


When I get a great writing idea, I think about it for about two seconds, then deliberately go and do something else. Watch some TV maybe or eat some cake. Basically, making a conscious effort to avoid it. Why? Surely I should immediately develop that idea, burning as it is in the embers of creation? It's the same with the actual writing. If I'm on a roll and I write a great sentence, I just stop and go and play some Fifa 08, stuffing my face with chocolate between passes. Why don't I go for the next sentence? Why do I feel the need to reward myself and pack up shop? Why why why why why?

Actually, I think I know. It's one of these two:

a. The idea is a newborn baby. You should wrap it up and put it in a cot and leave it for a bit. Same with the great sentence - that's you stretching to the limits of your abilities. Push any more and you'll pull a muscle. In your brain. Nasty.

b. I am a bone-idle bastard.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Lost in France

I hear in Paris they have a library dedicated to crime fiction. That's cool, right? Another cool thing is that they are having a festival of crime in May, where the intersection of the criminal and book worlds will be celebrated in all its glory. Can you guess where this is going? Yes, a third cool thing: your humble narrator will be at this festival. Apparently humour in crime is my bag and I'll be taking part in a panel on this subject, along with a couple of TBAs.

So, if you're in Paris on the 16th May, check us out.

You know, anyone would think I'm living on the continent. It's three years since I did any kind of event in the UK. I am a literary exile, condemned to tread only foreign soil until I can write a book that pleases MI5. Maybe STAIRWAY TO HELL will be that book? Ah, fuck MI5. Do you know the people that really matter? Critics? Don't make me laugh. Readers? Well, maybe a bit... but that's not the answer. It's CI5. Bodie and Doyle. And there is NOT A CHANCE they would have disapproved of any trilogy of books with one of these babies as a major character.

Saying all that, I do quite like foreign soil. Especially France. They have really nice soil, very dark and peaty. Plus they have loads of beer. I'm sorry, Cowley... you can grin all you like, I'm staying here, in this bar. Got my Leffe. Got my chips and mayonnaise. Got my table footy. Got my soil. I'm staying. I'm finishing my coffee. Enjoying my coffee.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Car crash cover

Second edition (or something) of Deadfolk released in France this week. I just love this cover. And check out that "Policer". That's Plim and Jonah!

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Check out the cover of LE ROI DU MACADAM, published in France today by Serie Noire/Gallimard. (Anglophones, this is KING OF THE ROAD... not some other book I wrote called "King of the Tarmac".) Love the cover. I do like a bit of suburban detritus in the morning.

Big thanks to Thierry Marignac for translating, and Gallimard for publishing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

And now for my next book...

Something very strange has been happening in Warchester, and local pub singer Rik Suntan is about to have his doors of perception blown wide open. It seems that during the 1970s, Jimmy Page's experiments with the occult wandered into the art of soulshifting - namely, swapping the souls of celebrity rivals with those of newly born babies in the Warchester maternity ward. Obviously this news is a tad hard to swallow, and Rik's got other problems on his plate - his regular slot doing Cliff Richard covers at the local nightclub is axed, and his girlfriend's dumped him for a ginger bloke. But not nearly as jaw-dropping as finding out he's the reincarnation of David Bowie...

Check out STAIRWAY TO HELL at Amazon. No pic for public consumption yet but it's a long time till publication. Probably better to drip it out slow.

BTW, this was my "research" novel. Every other book I wrote, the whole point of it was that I had to avoid looking things up (ie: work). Not so this one. Behind this story (which is a work of pure fiction, your honour) there's a whole pile of facts. More later.