As a writer who doesn’t exactly shy away from contact with the outside world, I receive a steady stream of emails from people asking me questions. These range from requests for advice on writing to comments about books and all points in between.
All are welcome, all appreciated and all replied to. After all, if someone has taken the trouble to mail me, it’s usually because they have taken the time to read something I’ve written so the very least I can do is respond. Time is, after all, the most valuable commodity any of us have.
However, there is one particular question thrown at me, and on a fairly regular basis, which always provides a warm glow of satisfaction; ‘what’s the next book about?’
The great joy of this question is that it provides both affirmation and confirmation in equal measures. For it provides proof that not only is my work liked, it’s anticipated! Could any author ask for more than that?
What makes it even more special is that my back list isn’t just varied, it could even be described as manic. I certainly can’t think of many authors who’ve published books about subjects as diverse as racism in football and farting although I’m sure there is much a decent psychiatrist could make of that!!
Yet as many people have told me, the eclectic nature of my work is part of the attraction. I am, as one reader put it, the Forrest Gump of lad-lit. I think that was meant as a compliment, it’s certainly how I took it anyway!
This ‘box of chocolates’ reference inevitably leads me onto another oft asked question, how do I pick the subjects for my books? The answer to that is simple, or at least it was.
Like most authors, I have a list of books I intend to write at some point. Some are based on personal experience, a few on a passion for something and others which stem from a simple nugget of an idea I have locked away in what passes for my memory. This list has always been fairly flexible and it’s fair to say that it contains books which will never, ever get written for no other reason than I simply don’t have the required skill to pull them off. And before anyone asks, yes, my autobiography is on there and no, it won’t ever get written. There are lots of reasons for this but ‘no one would ever believe half of it’ and ‘guilty your honour’ are two.
But in the past the underlying reason for the subject matter of a particular book was always purely and simply what I could persuade my publishers to print. A process which all too often was incredibly time consuming and frustrating involving arm twisting, deviousness and even grovelling. Indeed, it is a fact that Billy’s Log, which remains one of my personal favourite books (and is also one of my biggest sellers!) was only published at all because I insisted on having it tacked onto the contract for Barmy Army. But that process took two long years!
However, since the move into eBooks and the speed with which that allows me to both write and publish, things have changed immeasurably. For with the decision on what to write and when being mine and mine alone, not only am I in total control but I can be much more reactive to what my readers are telling me. The astonishing success of both The Crew and Top Dog since they went online (and however you look at it, almost 8 months at number one on both Amazon and iTunes is an astonishing feat) is a case in point. For with Wings of a Sparrow almost complete, I had already taken the decision on what to write next but such has been the volume of requests for a third book in that series, that has now become my next project.
That said, only yesterday I had a ‘bolt-of-lightning’ moment which got me so excited that I had to pull over and send emails about it from a lay-by on the A1 so it might be that things change again!
But that’s the joy of epublishing over traditional publishing. It allows me that flexibility which as a writer, is incredibly liberating.
And as long as my readers are happy to indulge me, I’m only too happy to continue along my meandering path.
God bless ‘em all!!!
One final thing I have to say. Just prior to EURO 2012, the BBC aired a documentary which made all kinds of accusations relating to the potentialfor racism and violence in the Ukraine and Poland and featured amongst other things, former England international Sol Campbell claiming that he thought some black and Asian fans might come home in coffins.
As I write this, it is the morning of the England vs Italy quarter final and without wishing to tempt fate, there has not been a mass outbreak of mass racism at a single game nor has there been a single England fan arrested.
We are all used to this type of media fed hysteria ahead of major tournaments but that does not make it right and it most certainly does not make it acceptable. Surely the time has come for the FA to make a stand against this ridiculous, insensitive and above all insulting style of sensationalist reporting and let it be known that it won’t put up with it any more.
But above all, Sol Campbell has done a huge disservice to his country and the many black and Asian England fans who stayed away from the tournament because of his ridiculous assertions. He was also incredibly insulting to the tournament hosts.
Thankfully, the England fans have already let it be known what they think of him with the brilliant ‘coffin parade’ in Donestsk but if he had anything about him, he’d have the balls to come out and admit he was wrong.
So, it’s underway. Thus far the games have all been great and thankfully we’ve seen barely any of the racism that was so feared pre-tournament.
What we have seen however, are sporadic incidents of violence but of course that was always going to happen wasn’t it. After all, why else are we seeing so many riot police on the streets of the host nations?
And this of course begs the question; why so much talk of one potential problem and so little of the very real one? After all, there have been thousands of inches of print and hour upon hour of television expended on racism whilst the very real threat of hooliganism has received barely a mention in comparison despite the fact that far more people are at risk of being caught up in violence than of being racially abused.
The reason of course, is that the pre-tournament media needed to fill space be it on paper, on line or on air and racism fits the bill perfectly. It is in many ways, the perfect story because we all understand it to be wrong which means that they can say pretty much whatever they like and hype it for all it’s worth sure in that there is no one to provide any kind of contra argument let alone complain.
Conversely, no one cares that some Ukrainian nutter is spewing forth dire warnings of what might happen should any Englishman dare step onto their soil because we all know that such threats are laughable, the media more than most. But they are also well aware that going into hoolie-mode might well attract the wrath of both the FA and the government and why risk that?
No, hooliganism is only news when something happens and then it’s suddenly big news. Occasionally, very big and very bad news.
In many ways, that’s why today is the big test for this tournament. We talk a lot about the Poles, the Ukrainians, the Russians, et al, but thanks to history and our domestic football culture, the English will inevitably always be at the centre of any discussion about hooliganism. They will also be the target. Not just for the local hooligans (and for ‘local’ read Poles, Ukrainians, Russians, Croatians, etc, etc) but for those who seek to soil our nations reputation and undo all the good work that has been done to change the negative perception of our travelling support.
That to me is a real worry. Let’s face it, there are plenty of journalists who would be happy to do whatever it takes to hand Mr Platini our collective heads on a plate and there are certainly enough policemen out there willing to help them do the job. With UEFA hardly being our biggest fans, finding ourselves standing in the dock in front of them is not an attractive proposition.
Don’t get me wrong and make no mistake, England might not travel abroad looking for trouble these days but there are plenty of lads amongst their number who won’t back away if it kicks off. However, those lads are also old hands who know the score and they are well aware of the bigger picture. They know better than anyone how to read an atmosphere but the problems arise when they are placed in a situation where backing off or chilling out isn’t an option left open to them.
As I write this, the majority of the England fans are in place, the sun is shining, the beer’s already flowing and the Police are twitchy. As the day progresses, it may well get more nervy and with our game over early, the fans will have a long evening ahead of them.
Oh yes, tonight is the first real test for this tournament. It’s also a huge test for our reputation. Let’s hope everyone passes it.
Not for the first time, the great game finds itself dragged into the news for all the wrong reasons.
Thanks to Ashley Young and his shameful theatrics for Manchester United we have calls for retrospective punishments for cheating –something I have always championed and fresh cries for goal line technology in the wake of yet another goal that never was. This time for Chelsea at Wembley.
Now both of these cases have two specific things in common. The first is that they resulted in goals and the second is that they involved cheating. In the Young case, it was disgustingly obvious but at Wembley it was less overt but equally shameful.
Post game and to their credit, both Frank Lampard and John Terry did the decent thing and admitted that the ball hadn’t crossed the line for the second goal. A fact that was proven by the numerous angles provided by the media. Yet if they knew that, why did they not point it out to the referee at the time? Indeed if Terry knew it wasn’t a goal, why was he actually seen claiming it?
Yes, I know there is an element of ‘win at all costs’ and like many football fans, I’d happily take a dodgy goal be it for Watford or England. But these were two former England captains remember and so is it that unreasonable to expect that they would have some concept of the idea of fair play? Especially since like all footballers they would have been instrumental in the establishment of the FA’s laughable ‘Respect’ initiative.
Of course having given voice to this ideal on Twitter I have now been accused of having an anti-Chelsea agenda which is exactly what happened
when I wrote about John Terry and the charges of racism levelled against him. Indeed, whilst I admire their spirited defence of their club and their captain I am always bemused by the reaction of Chelsea fans to anything said against them.
In many ways, the West London giants are the Samantha Brick of the football world. They have long considered themselves to be a cut-above the rest and always believed that not only are we all jealous of them because of their former status as the ‘glamour’ club but that these days we should all love them because of their achievements. However, what they have never understood is that it’s their very arrogance which is the reason so many people dislike them.
Liverpool are another club in danger of following the same path. Their refusal to play on the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster is understandable in many ways but the petulant way in which both the club and the fans have acted in recent weeks has been uncomfortable to observe. Not least because if they insist on marking the anniversary of the death of 96 lost souls in this manner, why not the death of the 39 at Heysel? Were they any less worthy?
Equally, does this infer that the deaths as a result of the Munich air crash or the Bradford fire were any less important because those clubs do not refuse to play on the anniversary of those tragedies?
Let’s be honest here, football is in desperate need of a bit of positive PR at the moment and to have a top flight player actually playing fair during a show-piece game at Wembley could well have been it.
It certainly wouldn’t have done either Chelsea or John Terry any harm either. Who knows, maybe those of us who follow other clubs might actually have begun to start liking them again.
My next book Wings of a Sparrow is coming along nicely with a planned ebook release early in June 2012. Full details can be found on the official Dougie Brimson website. Just click on the link.
In the meantime, if you haven’t read it yet, why not download The Crew. It’s been at #1 in the Amazon soccer charts for over 6 months now and is totally free so what do you have to lose?
And finally, could I respectfully ask everyone who has read a book and enjoyed it to take a few moments and post a review on either Amazon or iTunes? They really are important and are a great way to let us authors know that we’re doing an OK job! Or as someone else put it recently, a fabulous way to say thanks!
On this most awful of anniversary’s, please take a few moments to remember the 96 souls who died at Hillsborough 23 years ago today.
I’ve written much about that fateful day over the years, much of it admittedly controversial, but the bottom line is that people died simply because they wanted to watch a game of football. Even now those words seem shocking.
Thankfully, we will never see the like of Hillsborough again in this country again and tragic though it was, as a lasting legacy that’s a pretty damn good one.
The other day, someone sent me a link to a video. It was one of those YouTube compilations made by some genius on their laptop and featured a fairly hefty slice of action from the early 1980’s. Not just any action mind, but Watford action. It was quite simply awesome.
But it wasn’t simply the sight of Luther Blissett and Ross Jenkins banging in goals for fun which brought such joy to my drab supporting life, it was the memories it dragged up of the so-called ‘bad old days’ of going to football.
Now no one knows better than I that to walk along memory lane you have to pass through a mental filter which removes the vast majority of bad bits but the truth is that for me and for most of the people I know, watching football in the early 80’s wasn’t that bad at all. In fact it was absolutely fantastic.
As a Watford fan the football was amazing, the travelling generally hilarious and even encounters with other fans usually provided a degree of humour. All that running away also kept me extremely fit!
Yes, I know that there is a degree of brevity in what I’ve said here but there is also a serious point and it is one which all too often seems to have been forgotten.
You see whenever talk turns to watching football in the 80’s mention is invariably made of the hooligan element and to be fair, as someone who was around at the time and who has since written a fairly reasonable amount about it, they were certainly relevant. But the reality is that not every game involved trouble and not everyone who stood behind a goal or travelled home and away was involved in violence.
Yet here we are 20 odd years later still talking about the 80’s as if every game involved mayhem on the terraces. More to the point, whilst the
popular image the modern game portrays is of one where all of the stadiums are full of happy smiling faces, the stark reality is that the history of violence is still being used to generate a fear which in turn is used as an excuse to exercise control over fans. Be that through the imposition of designated seating, the use of oppressive stewarding, alcohol bans or even the continued refusal to bring back standing inside our grounds.
This isn’t good enough. Like the industry football has now become, fan culture has moved on since the 80’s and the time has surely come to acknowledge that and consign the memories of the violent minority to history.
Yes, as a culture it still lingers in the streets outside as well as on the internet and of course everyone must be vigilant but with the risks to the individual now greater than ever, even the most hardened of idiots thinks twice if not three times before throwing a punch inside a ground.
But more to the point, by setting aside the fear of hooliganism and placing a degree of responsibility onto the shoulders of the fans –who lest we forget, actually fund the game- we might actually see a return of the one thing which seems to have gone missing in action at all too many games in recent years, atmosphere.
Because no one can be in any doubt that the atmosphere at football these days is a pale shadow of what it was back then nor can they question the simple truth that atmosphere was generated largely from amongst those who gathered together and stood behind the goals.
The imposition of designated seating was almost solely responsible for killing that and if taking what many still foolishly consider to be a backward step is the price of bringing it back, then I for one think it’s a risk worth taking.
And I don’t doubt for one second that I am the only one who thinks that.
Like many people I have sat back and watched the furore surrounding Mario Balotelli’s stamp on Scott Parker with mild bemusement. His continued claims of innocence are quite frankly pathetic and if anything, prove just what type of individual he is.
The tragedy is that he’s not unusual. Sportsmanship seems to have become a dirty word in footballing circles these days with far too many players being seemingly devoid of a sense of fair play or for that matter, shame. How on earth can a professional sportsman who is built like a brick shit house justify dropping to the floor as if he’s been shot simply because another player taps him on the ankle or brushes his thigh? If someone did that on the local playing field on a Sunday morning he’d not only expect to get a right-hander for trying it on but he’d get slaughtered by his mates and rightly so because it is cheating pure and simple. And this begs the question, how and why has such behaviour become so acceptable within football when it is totally unacceptable or even illegal in sports such as Rugby, cricket and even golf.
The usual answer of course is that it’s all about winning but that’s bullshit. The answer is that it happens for no other reason than the punishments aren’t tough enough.
OK we are finally starting to see the odd retrospective punishment but that isn’t enough. At a time when every top flight game is filmed then every single contentious decision should be viewed and the guilty parties dealt with accordingly. Not just the players either, if clubs were faced with the threat of having points deducted for repeated offences then this cheating would stop overnight.
But equally, those who play the game professionally should be discouraging this kind of behaviour within their ranks and if that means confronting
their guilty team mates or even asking referees to change decisions during games, then so be it.
Of course history has proven that none of the above is likely to happen because everyone on the receiving end of the game (and by receiving I mean those who earn their money by milking the long suffering fans) are far too comfortable riding their first-class gravy train to want to change things.
But the simple reality is that for the future of the game something has to change and for all kinds of reasons. As both a fan and a TV watcher, I am becoming increasingly bored with some of the antics of players and I’m certainly not alone judging by the increasing numbers of empty seats we see at certain grounds.
Just as importantly, cases like Balotelli’s are making the sport a laughing stock and that not only reflects badly on those who play it but on those foolish enough to pay fortunes to watch it. And at a time when more and more people are having to question the wisdom of spending a large portion of their income on the walk through a turnstile, football can ill afford anything which might alienate any more. Especially when it is so easily addressed.
By the way, could I say a huge thanks to all those people who have been purchasing my ebooks lately. As I write this The Crew is the number one free download on the football charts of both amazon UK and US as well as on iTunes whilst Top Dog is at number one in the paid football charts. Everywhere We Go and Billy’s Log are also selling really well both here and in the States.
Could I also take this opportunity to remind everyone that my new comedy ebook is called The Art of Fart and is just £1.42 (or $2.18) on both amazon and iTunes. All of my books can be purchased by clicking here!
If you have downloaded one of my books recently and liked it, please leave a review. Of course if you didn’t like it, then please remember the old adage, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything!
I’ve posted this as a page on my blog but thought it might be useful to post it as a standard blog as I know some people have connections set up.
So what follows is the text of an as yet unpublished interview I gave to a journalist just yesterday (Jan 9th 2012)! I’ve posted it simply because it provides reasonable answers to many of the questions I receive on a fairly regular basis.
I hope you enjoy it but if you have a question of your own, please don’t hesitate to mail me. Oh, and it’s quite long!
How and why did you become a writer?
I fell into it by accident really and it was certainly not an aspiration or anything like it! I had left the Royal Air Force after 18 years as an engineer and was ‘working’ as an extra on TV and in films. EURO 96 was on the horizon and I was on set filming an episode of Casualty for the BBC when the idea came to write a book about my experiences following football. That book eventually became ‘Everywhere We Go’ and it really was a case of right book, right time.
The rest as they say, is history.
How do you get your ideas?
In the early days, they were driven by the readership as I thought they would be. That’s why I wrote follow-on books about local derbies, England and the London clubs (all of which are now out in eBook format).
After that, I moved into fiction which largely came about as a result of an approach from the TV writer Lynda La Plante who wanted me to write something for one of her series and from that point on, I’ve tended to write about things which either interest me or which I am passionate about. Given the way I write and the fact that much of my work revolves around my own opinions, I think it’s vital to take that approach.
How long does it typically take you to write a book?
How long is a piece of string? I actually write fairly quickly but there are all kinds of things which impact on how long a book will take to complete. However, I usually aim to have a first draft of a full-length book completed in two to three months although I actually wrote the second half of my novel Top Dog in under ten days and some people say that’s amongst my best ever stuff!
How do you write?
I’d like to tell you that I have a very clearly defined routine which involves writing at least 5000 words a day or a straight 8 hours at the keyboard but the truth is that I am horrifically ill disciplined and it doesn’t take much to distract me if I’m not very careful. Twitter for example, can keep me occupied for hours which is quite pathetic and if I know that there’s an old movie on telly it’s game over!
I actually had to sell my beloved motorbike because if the sun was shining I’d be out on the road, deadline or no deadline!
However, if I’m in the mood I’ll sit down and simply write for as long as I can and that can be anything from 2 to 20 hours in a day. All I need is tea, food and very loud soul or jazz funk music to keep me going but make no mistake, it’s bloody hard work sometimes.
So why do it?
Well it’s actually quite a decent way to earn a living! After all, I don’t even have to get dressed most days and you can’t say that about many jobs!
More seriously, writing can also provide a real buzz especially when I get in the zone and the words just come pouring out without me having to think too about them. Whilst writing ‘The Art of Fart’ for example, I was having so much fun that I actually had to keep stopping because I’d be giggling so much I’d get tears in my eyes.
It’s also fair to say that I derive a huge amount of pleasure from interacting with readers. That’s actually a huge part of it for me because having someone tell you that they like a particular book kind of makes all those hours at a desk worthwhile if only because it proves I’m doing something right!
You seem to have written books in pretty much every format there is which is quite rare amongst authors. Why did you branch out from non-fiction?
Simply because having written four books with my brother, I wanted to do my own thing. The problem was, I didn’t really know what and so I wrote a comedy book called ‘The Geezers Guide to football’ and then a couple of thrillers before going back into non-fiction. Now I’ve written another comedy book and my next project is also more humour so maybe that’s where I’ll settle. Who knows?
Where do your ideas come from?
Two places, my warped imagination and the market. Whenever I talk to writers I always tell them that if they want to write for publication it is absolutely vital that they get to know who their target readership will be, research what they are reading and then write something to suit.
That might sound mercenary but it’s exactly what a publisher will do when they’re deciding if a submission is right for them so why not make the process easier for yourself?
In my case, my target readership is lads and as a lad myself (albeit an older version!) I understand that we’re basically simple creatures who know what we like to read and more importantly, how we like to read. I try to give them what they want, it really is as simple as that. Thankfully, it seems to be working!
However, don’t get the impression that I take my readership be they real or potential for granted because I don’t. As a professional author my readership is my livelihood and if I don’t keep them entertained, I’ll starve!
How much time do you spend on research?
That depends on the project. When I was writing non-fiction football stuff it was a 24/7 operation because football culture was and remains a constantly moving beast. Thankfully, I had loads of good contacts who kept me supplied with information and to be fair, I couldn’t have written half as much as I have done without their help.
For the fictional and comedy stuff, research hasn’t ever really been an issue because I’ve been able to draw on personal experiences. If you’ve read ‘Billy’s Log’ I’ll come clean and say that it’s very much an amalgamation of my own life and that of my mate who will remain nameless!
So are all of your fictional characters based on real life?
God yes! Everyone in every novel I’ve written has been based on someone real be they family, mates or even celebrities. I ever based one character on my local newsagent!
Character creation is actually a really important part of my writing process because once I have the outline nailed down, the next stage for me is to fully construct the people I will be writing about and that starts with three things; their name, their face and their voice. After all, to all intensive purposes that character is a real person with a real history and real problems of their own and so you have to know what they will look and sound like! But equally, if you’re going to put them through something you have to understand exactly how they will react and what they will be thinking at that moment and all of that has to be built up.
That’s so much easier to do if you use a real life base-line to work from not least because if you’re struggling, you can actually ring them up and chat to them or even stick something on YouTube to give you a feel of them. It’s amazing how simply hearing someone’s voice can help you work through something. It certainly does it for me!
So what other writing tricks do you use?
Music is fundamental to my writing because I can’t write without it. But it can’t be any music, it has to be the right music. As a result, before I start work on a new project I’ll spend ages picking the right album or tracks which I put together as a playlist on iTunes. That becomes the soundtrack and it’ll be on repeat throughout the writing process.
It fairly quickly becomes almost hypnotic and I soon find that I’m able to switch in and out of a project simply by pausing the music which is an awesome thing to be able to do. The downside is that once I finish the project, I can’t listen to any of those tracks again without instinctively starting to type!
Your novels The Crew and Top Dog are two fast paced and very tightly plotted thrillers. How much work did you do in advance?
Ah….. well I actually spent a huge amount of time on these two books but the funny thing about them is that in both cases I wrote the endings first. You see I knew I wanted specific twists within the last few pages and once I had those straight in my mind I had to commit them to paper. The rest of the book was about how I took the reader to that point.
Judging by the fact that The Crew is frequently ranked at #1 in the kindle download charts for football books and is still receiving good reviews over ten years since it was first published, it clearly worked!
So why the move into comedy?
My dad was an entertainer and comedian so I think comedy is in the genes! Truth to tell, I love writing humour more than anything else although in real life, I’m desperately unfunny bordering on grumpy!
You spent a long time in the Royal Air Force. Will life in uniform ever feature in your future work? Or would you ever consider writing your autobiography?
I have a couple of ideas but at the moment, that’s all they are. I have a list of 3 or 4 books ahead of those.
As for my autobiography, it’s an idea that has cropped up a few times in recent years but the honest answer is that if I did write it, I doubt anyone would actually believe it because it would be like a bizarre version of Forest Gump! As anyone who knows me is aware, I’m one of those people ‘things’ happen to!
For example, I was quite possibly the first person in the west to know about the Chernobyl disaster! But if I tell you how, I’ll possibly have to kill you!
As a professional author, do you enjoy the part of your job which doesn’t involve writing?
I love the promotional aspect of writing and do everything I can to sell my books and spread the word about what an ex-editor once called ‘Brand Brimson’.
I also like to talk to writing groups whenever I’m asked but that’s about it really. I don’t get invited to literary functions and have never been anywhere near a literary festival of any kind.
I’m not really sure why that is but hey, that’s the literary world for you. It’s never made much sense to me.
I’ve been writing for 15 years now and one thing I’ve learned is that there are a huge number of people involved in publishing who fail to grasp the idea that the most important person in the whole process is the reader.
So does that explain why you were once quoted as saying that you’re not at the bottom of the literary ladder, you’re one of the rubber bungs underneath? What did you mean by that?
I made that comment during an interview in which I was asked about the genre of ‘hoolie-lit’ which in case you don’t know was the label tagged on to those of us who wrote books about the subject of football hooliganism.
Anyway, the point I was making that in spite of the fact that as a genre it spawned something like 60 books the bulk of which were by first time authors, drew loads of people back into reading and made a small fortune for various publishers and bookshops, no one involved has ever received any recognition let alone credit from within the literary world for what happened. Quite the opposite in fact, we just get looked down upon.
It still pisses me off to be honest. But that’s literary snobbery for you.
It’s well documented that your involvement in the Elijah Wood movie Green Street Hooligans did not go too smoothly. There have been various versions of the story but you have never really given your side of things. Would you like to take this chance to explain what really went on?
The brief version is that the director and I had a difference of opinion. She thought she knew everything and I knew she didn’t. Sadly, in the end I was forced to give up on it and walk away but the finished item kind of proves I was right because whilst it’s ok, it could have been so, so much better. That’s women for you.
Will you do more movies?
I certainly hope so!
I actually have a few screenplays on the production treadmill at the moment and would hope to do more in the future but I learnt an awful lot working on Green Street so won’t make any of the same mistakes I made there. I hope not anyway!
How did you secure your first publishing deal?
My brother and I had been writing some draft material and in the end, I walked into WH Smiths, took a book and wrote to the publishers asking if they would be interested.
That publisher was Headline and within a week or so they wrote back asking for some material and so I sent them some. They quickly came back asking for more and after two or three times I told them that if this carried on they’d have the whole book anyway so they best tell me if they wanted it or not. They wrote back and said they did and that was it.
It was only some years later that I realised how lucky we were and that it doesn’t generally happen like that!
How did you find your agent?
I don’t have an agent! Oddly, in spite of having 14 books published I’ve never been able to find one who wants to take me on so I’ve basically given up looking now. However, if anyone wants the job, I’d be happy to talk to them!
What tips would you give to aspiring writers?
The single most important piece of advice I would give them is this; if you can’t take criticism, don’t do it. Reviews can be brutal but so can reading or hearing simple feedback and if you think that you will struggle with someone slagging off your work, don’t put yourself in the firing line.
After that, it’s the basics. Write what you know, know your market, join writing groups, etc, etc. But above all, enjoy it! If you don’t, how can you expect your readers to?
What was your worst ever review?
Time out in London reviewed my first book ‘Everywhere We go’ thus: Everywhere We Go…. yeah right. Fuck off.
And your best?
I can’t remember the actual book but one of the English broadsheets (The Times I think) once called me ‘the hooligan’s pornographer-in-chief’ which I thought was quite cool. It’s certainly going on my gravestone!
Actually, the best reviews and in truth the only ones that really count are those from readers. I’m very lucky there and appreciate them all (but please, keep posting them!!)
If someone wanted to get a feel for your writing, which of your books would you recommend?
That would depend on who they were and especially what sex!
I do have a soft spot for my novels and to be honest, of all the books I’ve written ‘Billy’s Log’ is a personal favourite because it still makes me laugh. Indeed, I’m going to bow to pressure and write the sequel later this year.
What books do you read?
Autobiographies are a favourite of mine together although I steer clear of footballers and anyone under 40! I recently re-read Joan Simms book which is brilliant and very funny.
I also read military non-fiction and there is a book about the bombing raids on Port Stanley during the Falklands war called ‘Vulcan 607’ which is a particular favourite as I was there!
You have recently made the switch over to epublishing. How did that come about and how is it working?
I was approached by a company called the ebookpartnership.com who wanted to know if I would be interested in putting selected books from my backlist online.
I didn’t really know much about the process at that point but had a couple of titles which I knew I had the electronic rights to and so handed them over, more as a test than anything else. The reaction was amazing and now I have 12 of my backlist available to download. Two of those, ‘The Crew’ and ‘Everywhere We Go’ are actually free and although I was reluctant to do this at first, it has worked out astonishingly well as the ratio of sell-through purchases has been brilliant.
Is it working? Well I suddenly have full control over what I write and when I write it and it all happens at the speed I want it to happen as opposed to having to fit in with a publisher’s schedule. So hell yes! I’m a convert. So much so that I actually wrote ‘The Art of Fart’ specifically to release to the online market.
Tell us about ‘The Art of Fart’.
As anyone who has read the opening chapter on Amazon will know, it’s yet another book which has its roots in my own life! After all, when you grow up in a house of 8, 6 of whom are male, farting is going to feature quite heavily!
But in all seriousness, it’s just a bit of fun. It was certainly hilarious to write!
So what’s next?
I’m currently working on another novel, this time a comedy about football and then I may well write the sequel to ‘Billy’s Log’ which I already have mapped out.
However, if life has taught me one thing it’s that it never runs smoothly so who knows? I just hope I’m around to find out!
I will be the first to admit that I am something of a grumpy bastard and that I spend my days moaning about subjects ranging from the failure of HM Tax and revenue to collect money from the travelling community (why don’t they?) to people who illegally use disabled parking spaces (who should have their cars crushed on the spot). However, today I read something which hasn’t just irritated me, it has left me incensed. Yes, that’s right, incensed.
For on this very night, the 22nd of December, at White Hart Lane where Spurs will be playing near neighbours Chelsea, stewards will be wearing cameras in an effort to catch on film anyone in the crowd who uses foul, abusive or racist language.
Stewards….. wearing cameras….. Sorry, but I had to type that twice because I still don’t actually believe it.
To be honest, I don’t even know where to begin with this. The sanitisation of football is something I have written about extensively over the years and yet it continues apace. Usually it has to be said, hidden or at least cloaked under the ‘Kick Racism’ banner. But whilst I will be the first to jump behind anything which deals with either racism or racist abuse as I have done at length both in books and on this very blog, this is something else entirely. This is little more than fascism.
Like most people, I go to football to let off steam and part of that involves shouting, singing and occasionally, indulging in that little thing we fans call banter. Now in truth, many of the things we say, sing or chant could, when taken out of context, be considered abusive but inside a football ground, when directed at opposing fans, players or even officials, they are little more than simple words. Many of these words have basis in either history or fact but they are above all, instrumental in the creation of atmosphere. And atmosphere is, above all, what makes going to football one of the great joys of life.
But now, all of that is in grave danger of being taken away and make no mistake, that’s exactly where this is heading. The question is, why?
The fascists’ case is that no one should be subjected to any kind of abuse which might be deemed unacceptable but this is bollocks. This is about context and in the case of football, the game is the context. Enter a ground and you should know exactly what you are walking into, play it professionally and you must know what you are likely to experience at some point. If you don’t like that, then either don’t go or watch the sanitised version on television or don’t seek to enter the profession in the first place! It really is that simple. Because you have no right to walk into a ground or run out onto a pitch and then cry foul because you don’t like certain aspects of what you find. The individual will never, should never and can never be bigger than the game.
Yes, of course there are things which are said, shouted or sung inside grounds which are unacceptable but shock horror, terraces aren’t politically correct places and nor should they be! Furthermore, history has proven time and time again that in the vast majority of cases, the line of acceptability is drawn firmly by the people sitting within earshot which is exactly how it should be anyway! It is not, nor should ever be, drawn by someone sitting in a control room viewing CCTV footage a few days later.
Equally, what will be deemed unacceptable? The girls in Hertfordshire do have tits and fanny’s but me singing about them doesn’t make me sexist just as the age old songs about Mickey Quinn eating all the pies hardly make me fatist.
But to some politically correct driven jobsworth, that might be exactly what they decide and what then? Bollockings? Bannings? Prosecution? Or will we all have to attend some kind of seminar outlining the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of football fandom.
It’s a joke. But of course, it isn’t. Because it isn’t funny at all. It’s potentially very real and it could well have major consequences for the game in this country.
The irony is that this is happening on the very same week that someone in the UK has finally seen sense and decided that a return safe standing might actually be a good idea. Of course it isn’t in England because that would mean relinquishing some of the control the game exerts over us but fair play to the Scottish game (and that’s something I never thought I’d say! ) for finally having the balls to give it a try.
Yet what is the driving force behind the safe standing campaign? Exactly, the demise of atmosphere inside our grounds! Which is of course exactly what this farce at Tottenham is going to erode even further.
Well I have news for those who ‘run’ the game. Start filming people and prosecuting them for using foul language inside a ground and you will be fucked. Because enough is enough.
This isn’t about the game or the police, this is about the clubs themselves. OUR clubs. They’ve hiked prices to ridiculous levels, make us sit not stand, shift games around without a moment’s thought for the travelling fan and each week seem to find new ways to part us from our increasingly hard earned. And now, as we have seen at Blackburn and numerous other clubs, not only are they starting to cry foul when we actually have the nerve to voice our opinions about what is or is not going on at OUR clubs, thanks to Tottenham there is a very real sign that they are seemingly moving toward the total control of what we can and cannot say inside grounds. OUR grounds. What next? Song sheets? Big screens being used as auto-cues? Fans being asked to sing adverts for sponsors?
You may laugh, but I wouldn’t put anything past anyone involved with the financial side of football because none of them have the remotest idea of what it is (or was) like to stand on a terrace and be spontaneous. That’s why what’s going on at Spurs must be stopped from spreading and if the FSA and those who claim to be supportive of the rights of fans had anything about them, they would already be screaming blue bloody murder.
So where are they?
Note: My new book, The Art of Fart is now available to download from Amazon at £1.53 (or $2.68 in the US). Please visit www.theartoffart.net for further details. Make a stunning Xmas present…… especially post-sprouts!!!
Like many people, I was stunned and amazed by FIFA president Sepp Blatters’ recent comments regarding racism and the fact that it can be addressed with a simple handshake. Although I certainly look forward to employing a ‘high-five officer?’ type defence the next time I’m being done for speeding.
However, whilst like most right-minded football fans I long for the day when the bumbling old bastard is finally levered from the gravy train that we are busy fuelling, I am slightly bemused by the holier-than-thou attitude that has been adopted by certain elements within the English game in recent days.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally support the stance being taken by some of the players and officials who are speaking out against Blatter but the question nagging at me is why were those same voices so silent on the subject of John Terry?
After all, everyone knows Sepp is a bit of a fool and by his words has undoubtedly set back any notion that FIFA is seriously interested in the issue of racism. But the issue of Terry is in many ways far more serious because as I wrote last week, there is a great deal more at stake.
Since the dark days of the 80’s no footballing nation has been as vocal in its condemnation of racism within the game than England. By our actions we have earned the right to stand firm and just on the moral high-ground and that has given us the right to speak out against racism in nations from Spain to Russia and in not one case have they been able to throw anything back at us.
Yet now they can.
Forget the notion of innocent until proven guilty, by allowing an alleged racist to lead the national side against Sweden the FA have undermined both the severity of the problem and our stance on racism with the result that our integrity has been damaged. And it could get even worse because we now face the very real possibility of the current England captain being a convicted racist. That would remove at a stroke our right to preach to anybody about racism ever again. And without us on that moral high-ground, it’s a bleak and above all empty place.
Did no one in the hallowed halls of the Football Association consider that? Was a meaningless friendly really worth what they have done?
But equally, why didn’t those players who are now being so vocal about Blatter speak out then? They’re not stupid, they must have realised the possible implications involved with his selection.
The only answer of course is that they were afraid. No one likes a grass do they especially when the guy involved is one of your own. That’s not a problem they have with Sepp of course, because everyone hates him right?
Yet Anton Ferdinand is also one of their own and he deserves better from his peers as does every black player from Clyde Best and Paul Canonville through to the 8 year old on Hackney Marshes and they didn’t get it when they needed it the most. That’s beyond shameful.
Racism continues to be one of the great evils of the modern game and has to be confronted at all levels and at every opportunity. But to quote the Irish politician and orator Edmund Burke, ‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’.
That says an awful lot about what has (and has not) been going on in recent weeks.