An acknowledgement due

Every author writes and then has to edit. It’s a painful process. Whole sentences that were lovingly selected have to go. Some of my funniest lines have been cast into the outer darkness during this culling.

Not only must the writing be polished, but the plot must be rigorously tested, and this is where I pay tribute to my brother. My books are subjected to a two-way test upon completion. My wife reads them (but she’s far too nice to say anything very critical) and then my brother is let loose. He is nice too, but that won’t stop him sending a sheaf of suggested changes, notes of solecisms and plot deficiencies.

I must be improving because he had about 125 for my first Mercurius book and he only had forty-something for the latest. But he’s good – really good!

He spotted, for example, that on page 113 I said something that appeared to contradict something at the foot of page 48. He was right. He noticed that a character spoke to Mercurius on page 70 as if Mercurius does not know who he is, whereas around page 25 he is directly addressed by someone to whom Mercurius is speaking. I don’t slavishly adopt all his ideas – I am not sure of his soundness on the implications of the Calvinist doctrine of double predestination, for example, so I left my text alone – but every writer needs someone like him, that trusted person who will tell them what they really think.

It makes editing much less lonely, and much more successful. So, thank you, Ian, once again.

The Uninvited Guest

I have remarked in the past that my characters don’t always do what I planned when we actually get to writing the text out. One example, which will only mean something when people have read Slonský 3, is how Slonský rescues Navrátil when Navrátil is detected while sneaking up from behind on some bad people. I will say no more, but it surprised me.

However, Slonský 4 has produced a whole new level of intrusion in the form of Major Rajka. I will not describe him in detail, except to say that he was nowhere to be found in the synopsis and I’m not quite sure what he thinks he’s doing in the book in progress, but he turned up uninvited on Saturday and has refused any requests to leave.

Rajka has an interesting back story but his presence cannot be justified on the strength of that alone. I watched as he described what he intends to do, and then suddenly realised that this resolved a problem three chapters ahead that I’d been puzzling about without ever answering satisfactorily.

Students of the writing art may have a view on this. Was it serendipity writ large? Was it my subconscious suddenly erupting with the answer to my question? Who knows? But the difficulty I face is how to persuade him that he is no longer needed. I have a feeling that, like Klinger of the fraud squad, Rajka is planning to insinuate himself into the regular cast of characters. He will need careful handling or he may start to demand storylines of his own.

All about No. 5

No, it’s not a Chanel advert. I’ve just completed the first draft of my fifth book, Mercurius 2 (it’ll get a proper title later, though I’ve had a working title throughout).

The next step is to put it aside for a week or so before I start editing. The difficulty with editing at once is that I can’t forget what’s coming, so I don’t read it in the same way as a reader coming fresh to it would. I might know, for example, that character X is actually secretly married to Y, or that A and B are half-brothers, but if I leave it a little while I can go back and read it as if it’s new to me.

I’m fortunate in having a couple of family members who will also read it and comment. There hasn’t been a time when those comments didn’t improve what I’d written.

That doesn’t mean all work stops, but writing takes a back seat for a few days to things like painting the dining room, packing up old books and talking to my wife.

Then it’s full steam ahead on Slonský 4!


Slonský rides again!

The Book of Slaughter and Forgetting

This is now my latest book! You’ll find it here (UK) or here (USA).

Slonský is asked to investigate a cold case in which a retired policeman knows there was a miscarriage of justice. But it’s thirty years later, and the witnesses are ageing, their present day memories unreliable. What are the chances that he can find the real killer and earn a conviction?


A little parental help

St Ignatius

Sometimes children drive their parents to fantasise about sending them to boarding school. They don’t actually have to do it, of course, and the threat may be sufficient – hence the attached bogus prospectus, which parents are welcome to print out and leave around for their children to find. I hope they will appreciate home more once they have read it.