OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve been consumed by Olympic fever. Not just because of the fantastic spectacle the games are providing (and I think the Paralympics are going to be just as amazing) but because of the impact they are having on the nation.
We’re ‘up’ again. Everyone’s having a great time, everyone’s happy and everyone is actually talking to each other. I love that, love it.
And as someone on Radio 5 said the other day, that should be the true legacy of these games. The fact that Great Britain has stopped being consumed by anger and distrust and has suddenly remembered how to be kind, helpful and friendly again. Oh that it continues. Indeed, I think we should all as individuals take it upon ourselves to ensure it does.
We can’t moan about people being grumpy bastards when we’re acting no better ourselves and as my wonderful old nan used to say, manners cost nothing.
Of course the great hope is that the games will leave all kinds of legacies on the country ranging from a swell in Patriotism (please god!!!) to increased participation in sport (amen to that!) but there is one legacy increasing numbers of people are hoping for and that relates to football.
For decades now the great game has been untouchable at the pinnacle of British sport. It’s the great spectacle, the great passion, the great love. The result being that it has achieved a level of importance which is totally out of kilter with reality. The status afforded to those involved coupled with the money some of them are being paid brings new meaning to the word ridiculous.
At some point that has to stop, or be stopped. After all, all of the money swilling through the trough that is football ultimately comes from our pockets. Be it in gate receipts, TV subscriptions or any one of a million ways the game uses to part us from our cash. Too much of that goes out of the game into the tax-avoiding bank accounts of players who aren’t actually worth a tenth of what they get paid and agents who are little more than villains.
But we all know that. We’ve always known that.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my football and I have a great deal of admiration for those who play it (even if I think as individuals, some of them are lacking in pretty much everything) but comparatively speaking, the great game is lacking way behind in all kinds of things. Perspective and morals being just two.
Yet because it is ‘the great game’ we not only continue to stand idly by while these things go on but we actually grant those at the centre of this scandal elitist status within our population. And with that status secure, there has never been any need let alone desire to reform.
Now, thanks to the Olympics, that may finally change because football’s position at the top of the sporting tree isn’t so secure anymore.
The atmosphere, so long one of the major USP’s for football, has been matched if not surpassed at pretty much every Olympic event and better still, it’s been devoid of any hatred. The TV coverage has been unsurpassed, customer service exemplary and best of all, the desire for tickets to attend even previously unheard of sports has bordered on fanatical.
But most importantly of all, to see sportsmen and women competing for the joy of competing as opposed to being consumed by anger and greed has been a revelation. Answer me this. Who would you rather have dinner with? Ashley Cole or Sir Chris Hoy? I rest my case.
So if the Olympics leave one legacy behind, it’s the hope that people finally accept that there is an alternative to football in terms of spectacle and that there are other sports out there which can be as, if not more exciting than the great game. And those sports all without exception, provide value for money to those who go to watch them live.
That’s my hope. Not least because it might finally give football the long overdue reality check it so desperately needs.
My new comedy novel Wings of a Sparrow is currently being rewritten ahead of release (standard practice sadly) but should be ready to download fairly soon.
The tale of a football fan who inherits his local rivals, it’s best described as Brewsters Millions meets Fever Pitch and has been great fun to write to I hope you’re going to enjoy it.
Indeed, thanks to everyone for what’s going on book wise at the moment but for those who don’t know, I’m currently dominating the football book download charts of both Amazon and iTunes with books at #1 on both free and paid charts. On top of that, of the top 36 soccer books on iTunes, 8 are my titles.
However you look at it, whatever I’m doing, is working!
As I type this, Britain is enjoying what will surely go down as one of the great events of the modern age. Coming 12 months after the world saw the very worst this country has to offer being conducted by the very worst our society has to offer, we are now seeing Britain at its very, very best.
Our nation is full of joy and optimism, our athletes are quite simply astonishing and each day brings things we never thought we would ever see. And as if that isn’t enough, we have the Paralympics to come. Surely as wonderful an example of the triumph of the human spirit as anyone could hope for.
You look at all that, all this and it’s clear, Britain really is Great. Despite the best efforts of Labour it always was and always will be. TeamGB, that sums it up perfectly.
Yet the truth is that this is the tip of the iceberg and that iceberg has been gently drifting along for decades driven by the quiet resolve that is middle England.
From our amazing troops to the women of the WRVS and a million points between , this country of ours has always been full of hope, goodness and inspiration. And this brings me to my point.
Why is it that you feel the need to ignore these good people and their amazing stories and instead feed us a daily dose of crap? Why do you assume that anyone has any interest in page upon page of PR spin about airheads who have contributed little or nothing to the fabric of this country?
Yet every single day you dish up a diet of bullshit about The Only Way is Essex and Big Brother as if the people involved are somehow important. Newsflash: they aren’t and they never will be.
Furthermore, why do you assume anyone cares about Imogen Thomas, Sophie Anderton, Katie Price or any other of the myriad of nomarks who fill your ‘news’ paper every single fucking day? Most of them might as well be names in a phone directory for all the meaning they have to me and I’m certainly not going to waste time reading about them in an effort to find out who they are because chances are I won’t care anyway.
And why this fascination with the Kardashian family? From what I can tell all they are is a bunch of good looking dysfunctionals who have somehow managed to manipulate the media into thinking they have some kind of value. Manipulation which you have clearly fallen for because they actually don’t. They are only a story because you make them a story!
The Daily Mail was once a great news paper. Sadly, thanks to a seemingly fanatical desire to avoid listening to its readership, it has become little more than a down market version of OK magazine and you should be ashamed.
Look at the photo to the top left of this post because it says everything the people of this nation feel. When we are in positive mode, we are untouchable and as you may have noticed, we like being in positive mode.
If you follow that message and give us positivity, maybe I and the many thousands of others who have deserted you will come back.
Thanks to everyone for what’s going on book wise at the moment but for those who don’t know, I’m currently dominating the football book download charts of both Amazon and iTunes with books at #1 on both free and paid charts. On top of that, of the top 36 soccer books on iTunes, 8 are my titles.
However you look at it and whatever I’m doing, it’s working!
I am delighted and not a little relieved to finally release brief details of my next movie project.
Provisionally entitled ‘Solider, Soldier’ it centres on the rehabilitation of a British Muslim soldier who loses both legs as well as his best mate in an IED incident in Afghanistan and touches on all kinds of issues ranging from family loyalties to the problems faced by Muslims fighting in the British Army.
The script has been written by myself with additional writing by my old friend Clare Perry and is being produced by Rakha Singh who made ‘The Killing of John Lennon’. The awesome David Blair who made the brilliant ‘Accused’ series for the BBC will direct.
We are currently looking at casting but former Eastenders star Ace Bhatti will play the lead role and since the plan is to film in Bradford, we have been lucky enough to secure an agreement from local MP George Galloway to play a cameo role.
Financing is well under way and I will of course release more details as and when I can.
BTW, continued thanks to all of you who are keeping The Crew at number 1 in both the Amazon and iTunes football charts. It’s held the top slot for pretty much 8 solid months now and that’s entirely thanks to you lot.
Work on the third book in the trilogy will commence as soon as Wings of a Sparrow is complete and that won’t be long now. Honest guv.
Our inglorious leader David Cameron has recently been on the offensive with ideas to slash the benefit budget and in particular, has targeted the long-term unemployed and the provision of housing benefit for those under 25. Now as people who regularly read my blog will know, I’ve been a Tory voter all my life but for various reasons, that came to an end when Cameron walked into number 10. But on this he has my full and total support. Indeed I’d actually say ‘about fucking time’ because like many tax payers in this once wonderful country of ours, I’ve had enough. Enough of propping up people who’s idea of contributing is to society is to vote on X-Factor, enough of supporting some lazy bastard with no interest in working, enough of funding the lifestyle of some addict who can’t be arsed to take the help being offered to him and enough of being the sole provider to an unmarried mother with three kids by three different blokes. That’s not where I want my hard earned taxes to go and it’s certainly not what the benefit system was designed for. The liberal left of course would argue the opposite but then again they would. It’s what they do. Yet what they fail to see is that because of the scroungers who have come to infest our society, the people that the system was actually built for are being squeezed as hard as anyone. How for example, can it be right that someone who has worked hard and saved all their life has to sell their home to pay for care which is provided freely to someone who lives on benefits? How can anyone argue for a system which requires that? It’s a national scandal. The left inevitably avoid such questions and instead argue that rather than attack the benefit system the government should instead be going after those who avoid paying tax. And whilst I certainly agree with that, it is for a totally different reason. They want it because in their world fairness is an alien concept and if we take more money from the rich it would allow us to continue along the ‘funding the feckless path’ they seemingly so admire. I meanwhile, want it to help rebuild the damage done by labour and ease the pressure on the already struggling working people of this country. But I also know that if you have a financial problem, the first thing you do is not try to increase your income, it’s to reduce your outgoings and in that sense what Cameron has said is not only a wake up call for the government, it’s a wake up call for the tax payer. As a consequence, not only should we be backing Cameron, we should be demanding that he go further and take a long hard look at every benefit from Job Seekers to Motobility. Both of which are horrifically abused and which cost us billions every year. And that’s the key word; us. Never forget that as tax payers we are the ones who fund this country and it’s about time that those who steal from us, be they rich or poor, were dealt with in just the same was as any other thief. After all, as I have said many times before, if someone came into your house and stole £65 a week from your wallet you’d be onto the Old Bill like a shot. What pray tell, is the difference?
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.
Over the last couple of years you might have noticed that the world of the ebook has changed publishing out of all recognition. This is particularly true for mid-list authors such as myself.
No longer under the control of editors or publishers we are now free to go it alone to write what we like and publish it when we like. Trust me, for all kinds of reasons that freedom is liberating!
For the reader, it has been equally revolutionary. Who would have thought five years ago that not only would there be a genuine alternative to good old paper but that there would be books available to download for free at the touch of a button!
But the rise of the ebook has added a new and very important element to the reading process and it is one which not everyone seems to have grasped. It is the power to review. Be it on amazon, iTunes, Goodreads or any of the numerous reader websites, if you enjoy or even dislike a book you are now able to tell the world.
That my friends, is power, real power. And I will tell you why.
As a professional writer of ebooks, whenever I release something new onto the market the promotion of that book falls not to the publisher as it used to, but to me as the author. As a consequence the normal routine is to bombard media outlets, social media, related websites and blogs in the hope that someone will help by providing some publicity.
This, as you can imagine, is an extremely important part of the publishing process because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good a book might be if no one knows about it no one will buy it! But this work can consume an extraordinary amount of time and whilst it can be fabulous fun, it can also prove to be both frustrating and soul destroying.
However, after a certain amount of time you have to get back to the actual process of writing which means that you have to let your latest stand on its merits and fend for itself. It’s at this point that all authors hope that their readers will kick in and take up the task of spreading the word on their behalf. Fundamental to that is the review.
From the readers perspective a review can have many functions but for the majority of authors reviews are promotional tools and in that sense they are almost unrivalled which is why we all ask, plead and even beg readers to post them. It isn’t that we want you to boost our self-esteem (nice though that is!) it’s because the simple truth of the matter is that nothing sells books like word of mouth and these days, that primarily means what readers have to say on the online outlets.
Of course there are people who would never review a book for all kinds of reasons. The usual three being ‘I wouldn’t know what to write’,’ I’d be embarrassed’ or ‘I can’t be arsed.’ But by thinking in this way they are actually missing out on what to me is one of the most exciting elements of the ebook revolution and that’s the potential for the reader to become directly involved in the publishing process.
Because when you download a book be it free or paid, you earn the right to have an opinion. And since your opinion is as good as anyone else’s, rather than keep it to yourself or simply share it with your immediate family why not share it with the global community? You don’t have to say much, just a sentence or two, but anything is better than nothing. Believe me, it can be a great deal of fun!
Equally and just as importantly, by posting a review on one of the online stores such as Amazon and iTunes –and this is the crux of the matter- you instantly become a part of the promotion for that book.
I won’t try and explain the mysteries of the various ranking systems and why every single review counts but think about it in its most basic sense; your glowing review could be the one which introduces someone to the delights of Billy’s Log or The Crew! Surely that has to be worth a few minutes of your time!
And speaking as an author, reviews have other benefits. One of which is that they help me to decide what to write next. For example, I had no idea that there was so much interest in sequels to both Top Dog and Billy’s Log but now, thanks to both the sales figures and the fabulous reviews posted by readers, I do. Which is why you will hopefully soon see both, possibly within the next 12 months.
For me that last sentence encapsulates why I place so much importance on my readers opinions. Because by posting a review and helping to keep a title or titles selling, they/you allow me to concentrate on the actual process of writing and turning out fresh material.
At the end of the day, I hope that’s what people actually want me to be doing as opposed to trying to climb up some journalist rear end in the hope
that they might say something nice about my latest. It’s certainly what I’d much rather be doing.
So please, if you have ever read a book and like it, take the time to leave a review somewhere or even mention it on Facebook or Twitter. As I have said a million times each and every one of them genuinely helps and as someone pointed out to me today, a review is a fabulous way of thanking the author for his or her efforts.
One final point on the subject of reviews and just to confirm the importance of what I’ve said above, could I say a huge thanks to all the people who have been posting such kind things on Amazon and iTunes lately. It’s because of you guys that The Crew, Top Dog and Billy’s Log in particular are selling so well and sitting at the top of their respective charts. I am both humbled and eternally grateful for your fantastic support.
Two quick things I would like to add, I’m aiming to have a new book online by the end of May or early June (details here) and I have just agreed to take part in what I hope is going to be a fabulous new project aimed directly at lads everywhere.
Watch this space or keep an eye on my website for more details.
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!
It’s not often I write about politics but today, I have to make an exception.
Quite why this compulsion has hit at this particular time is unclear as the decision I’ve made and the reasons for it were made months ago but hey, my subconscious has decided that today is the day and so here we go.
I have never made any secret of the fact I have always voted Tory and am a huge fan of Lady Thatcher. My father led me along this road from an early age but it was reinforced when I joined the RAF (the military are traditionally right-wing) and set in stone when I headed south as part of the South Atlantic Task Force in 1982.
If anything, my anti-left resolve was hardened when Blair and his loathsome cronies came to power and set about their pre-planned destruction of the social (and as we later learned, economic) fabric of our country. A crime which is far more serious than the ongoing obsession with a so-called illegal war in Iraq yet which will similarly and tragically never result in any kind of justice being imposed upon those responsible.
Have no doubt, I was thrilled when Brown was ejected from number 10 and chuffed to bits that my vote contributed to his demise. I had high hopes for Cameron and even though he was forced to bring the Lib-Dems in, I was convinced that anything would be better than what we had been enduring. Yet as the weeks unfolded and the true extent of the damage Labour had inflicted on the country began to be exposed, I began to become concerned. And the more I heard, the more my unease grew.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually support many of the things the coalition are doing and whole heartedly back the cuts the government are making because at the end of the day, that’s my money being wasted by the NHS, the Civil Service and even the MOD (don’t get me started on that!). I also applaud the stance being taken over law and order and the growing calls to repeal elements of the human rights act. However, I certainly don’t support some of the cuts made to defence especially the destruction of the Harrier fleet which will surely rank as one of the most crazed military decisions of all time.
But there have been two particular issues which have enraged me since Dave came to power and combined, they have ensured that I will never vote Tory again.
The first is the issue of Europe. I’m English first, British second and European never. Whilst I understand the concept of a European state and accept that there are certain elements of it which are of huge benefit to the nation, there are other aspects which disgust me, others which terrify me. To me, it’s clear that the EU is a club which needs us far more than we need it and that alone is reason enough to leave. So where is my referendum? The one Dave repeatedly promised.
As each day passes, the clamour from the nation calls for it and whilst we are finally seeing noises that it might actually happen at some point, the stumbling block remains the construction of the actual question. But it shouldn’t, it should be a simple in or out question. If the people say we stay in, then fine. But if they say we want out, then it’s a total out.
Either way, it will be a democratic decision and those who voted contrary to the outcome will have to deal with it just as the country will have to deal with the consequences whatever they might be. But the fact remains, we want our say and we should be given it. The fact that we haven’t is a disgrace.
The second issue is the one which not only leaves me baffled, but furious. Indeed, even as I’m sitting here I can start to feel my blood boiling.
Britain is a wealthy country, of that there is little doubt. Yet at the moment we have, thanks to Blair and co’s mismanagement of our finances, a huge debt. As a consequence, the government have been forced to make massive cuts to public spending the majority of which, as I’ve already said, I support.
However, given the fact that we are in such a mess, why the bloody hell are we spending £8.1 billion a year on overseas aid (and that will increase to £11.4 billion in 2014. That’s a 34 per cent rise!)?
Cameron argues that it is essential to spend this money to maintain our status on the world stage and more importantly, that we have a moral duty to help those living what must be awful lives. But whilst I think the former is bollocks and do have some sympathy with the latter, surely as an elected government you also have an even greater moral duty to ensure that you don’t have kids in your own country who live in abject poverty or elderly men and women who, having spent the bulk of their lives paying into the system, are being forced to choose between eating and heating because their pensions are so low.
I wouldn’t mind so much if it made any sense. Call me old fashioned, but does a nation which spends £20 billion a year on defence and £1.25 billion
space programme really need £280 million from the British taxpayer? Would it not be better all round if someone were to give them a quick call and tell them to get their priorities right?
And did it not strike anyone at the Department for International Development as odd that many senior officials in Sierra Leone went on a huge spending spree shortly after they handed them a cheque for £1.2 million to aid ‘peacekeeping’ efforts?
I know I’m being flippant but sadly, those are two examples from a very long list of bizarre decisions and whilst the sums involved might not make much difference to the old age pension or child benefit, they would make a huge difference to organisations such as Childline, Cancer Research, Macmillan, the RNLI and even the RSPCA who as it stands, are essential charities almost wholly dependent on public donation. And I for one, would far rather my taxes went in that direction rather than risk them ending up in some African despots Swiss bank account or to countries who wish us nothing but harm in return.
Quite why Cameron and company cannot see that escapes me and that, in essence, is why I will never vote Tory again. Not because they are crap politicians or even dodgy characters, but because after years of Labour destruction and miss-management, they have failed to adhere to the fundamental rule of political life. That as a politician you are elected by the people to serve the people.
To do that, you have to listen to and act upon the will of the majority and the sad fact is that at the moment, at least when it comes to these two issues, they’re certainly not listening to me and plenty like me.