Carol’s ‘Close Up’ with Crime Fiction Author Michael Fowler!

 Carol Bridgestock

 

Today, I have the great pleasure to welcome Michael Fowler a member of our ‘police family’, who like us on retirement from the Police Force grabbed ‘freedom’ with both hands. Nowadays Michael spends his time in his studio writing and painting. Come along with me and find out more about  this very talented man…

 Michael Fowler signing copies of his books!

Michaeal what inspired you to write a novel?

The enjoyment and experience from my previous work as a police officer is the inspiration behind my writing.  But also I am an avid fan of crime fiction and there have been many times when I have wondered if I could write a crime novel myself.

Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

In 1995 I earned my first publishing contract when Wharnecliffe Publishing, of Barnsley, published an account of my childhood experiences of growing up in my home town of Mexborough. I there met Editor Alan Twiddle, who gave me some wonderful guidance and advice on how to develop my writing.  When I retired, and began writing my first crime novel, Alan took time out to read the first draft, and at no expense, pointed out where changes were required to develop the book to enable me to pitch to publishers.  He also gave me additional advice on how to continue with the crafting ofmy writing, and how to make my plots stronger and more exciting. His guidance has been invaluable and his kindness much appreciated.

Where do you work? Do you have a regular pattern or routine or other? … Hey up! Two questions at once that wouldn’t be allowed in an interview would it Michael? Sorry, call it excitement… :-)

I have a studio, a ten minute drive away from home, where I paint and write, and at home I have converted a bedroom into a study.  On almost a daily basis, I begin my day by walking the dog, in the fields at the back of my home, using the time to mull over the development of my painting or writing piece for that day.  I then work for between 4-5 hours, until mid-afternoon, when I walk the dog again, and reflect on what I have written or painted and go through a mental editing process. 

What are you working on now?

In terms of writing, I am half-way through book number four in the DS Hunter Kerr series.  In each of the former novels I have alluded to the fact that he became a cop, after his first love was murdered, and he realised that his only path to finding out who killed her was to become a detective.  Despite years of investigating he has never tracked down who murdered her. In this novel he finally uncovers her killer.

In this story I also introduce DS Scarlett Macey (a female detective with the Metropolitan Police), and I feel I have created such a strong, quirky character, that she deserves a series of her own.  I have therefore drafted out a plotline ready for her first outing in 2015.  (You have heard this here first)

Come on we’re ‘family’  … Good interview technique eh Michael? :-) Share something with us that nobody else knows about you?

To set the background to this tale I need to introduce some back-story.  The police force I joined in 1976 was totally different to the one of today. Especially, it wasn’t politically correct or sensitive, and on a constant basis someone was always pulling or trick, or ‘spoof’, as they were referred to, against an individual or a group. They were always harmless fun and without doubt they eased the pressures of the job.  In fact, some of the ‘spoofs’ that I witnessed were so hilarious that they would have easily graced the TV series ‘Candid Camera’.

In 1982, at the age of 22, I passed my police exams to qualify for the rank of Sergeant and Inspector.  At the time I was working in plain clothes and so to gain some experience, with a view to going before a promotion board, I returned back into uniform to ‘act up’ in the rank of Sergeant.  One day, whilst on afternoons, I went into work and found an A4 envelope in my ‘in’ tray.  Inside the envelope was a memo purporting to be from the Chief Constable, together with an armband which had on it two stripes.  The memo explained that these should be worn by those in the acting rank, especially when in the public eye. That day I had a planned meeting with fire-brigade officials and the local councillor.  I sat in that meeting for an hour-and-a-half, wearing a set of Boys Brigade Corporal Stripes, wondering why so many people kept looking in on the meeting.

Who would you like to share a cup of coffee and a natter with?

Billy Connolly – not just a funny guy, but also an interesting person, that I would to love to share some stories with.

Most police officers seem to find it hard to relax but everyone appears to have their own little routine. How did/do you relax?

Relaxation for me is in two stages.  The first stage is rigorous exercise. I generally wind down, either by a visit to the gym, pool, or by going for a run.  This is something I’ve always done since a teenager.  Stage two takes place in the evening time, either by watching TV, or going out for a meal with Liz, my wife, where we ‘catch up’ and reminisce. 

If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?

I’d buy a big house with pool, gym and cinema room, and make sure my two lads were set for life.  Then I’d treat family and close friends.

Are you a savoury or sweets guy?

Savoury.

What’s your earliest memory?

Sitting at the table with my Mum, drawing.

What has been your favourite year and why?

2006 – when I retired from the police.  Not because I hadn’t enjoyed that job, but I always wanted to be an artist and family circumstances meant that I couldn’t pursue that career.  It was my opportunity to do what I had always wanted to do. 

What was the last thing you cried at?

The week leading up to Christmas 2012 I watched ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (again) – I always shed a tear of joy every time I watch it.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given or best advice you’d give?

In terms of writing, an editor friend, Alan Twiddle, told me to read twelve different writers of the genre I was writing and follow carefully how each of them draft their prose.  I now read novels differently.  I always pass on this same advice to would-be-writers.

What’s your favourite film?

Favourite film – It’s a Wonderful Life.  It reinforces how fortunate we are to be given life, and how much we should embrace and cherish it, no matter what.

Who was the most famous person you have worked with and what were they really like?

David Curtis is one of Britain’s foremost artists.  I met him fifteen years ago at a painting venue and instantly hit it off with him.  Since then he has spent so much time passing on tips and guiding me on how to paint professionally.  He has introduced me to so many professional artists, and also encouraged and supported me when I have submitted work to the Mall Galleries ‘Royal’ exhibitions.  We remain good friends and paint together whenever we can.

Do you think doing the work you did has an impact on what you write and how you write it?

Without doubt the experiences I gained as a police officer, especially as a detective, have been a big influence on my story-telling as a crime-writer.

 Lovely to chat to you Michael. Good luck with the novels and Bob and I are looking forward to catching up with you when we next head north! I know Bob is particularly keen to share ‘war’ stories with you.

Here are links to Michael’s website and images of his published books by Caffeine Nights Publishers.

http://www.mjfowler.co.uk/

     

Other publications by Michael Fowler:-

      

 

 

A poem written about our book signing tour- how kind… Look out for ‘Reads Ramblings’ Coming Soon!

A real treat to our followers on the blog… An additional spot we’re calling ‘Reads Ramblings!’ Poems by Janet Read. Watch out for my ‘Close Up’ with Janet soon…

A poem written about us – how kind…

A poem sent to us about a book signing tour titled … Crime Writers – RC Bridgestock
CRIME WRITERS – R. C. BRIDGESTOCK

Looking through the eyes of an accomplished crime writer and his wife
Feeling all the excitement and the troubles and the strife.
Making all the plans for a two week book signing tour
Heads spinning with arrangements, emails, blogs and more!!

Alarm clocks set at the …ready
The start date has finally come
Bags packed and car loaded
Hope it all turns out good fun.

Everyday is a different venue
With a different tale to tell.
Meeting and greeting with smiles galore
How fast will our books sell?

Deadly focus and Consequences to name just the first two books.
Real life scenario’s written how the crime scene looks.
Dealing with the trauma’s experiences and emotions.
A day in the real world of police work and all its commotions’.

The tour is near to ending
The reviews and sales have been great.
Radio, TV and the press have followed our plight
Our customers encouraging us to sit down and write.

We hope with all our hard work and dedication we are able to state our name to fame.
We have lots more books to follow on, that’s the name of the game.
Thank you to all the people we have met along the way and the hundreds that have been in touch via email’s to have their say.
R.C. Bridgestock signing out, until the next time, remembers the name and look out for our books, our special claims to fame.

 

 

Interview with Crime Author Bob Bridgestock – Could have been the only butcher with exploding pork pies?

Bob, my husband, my co-author, my best friend Bob Bridgestock. This interview is probably one of the most difficult that I have done. Why? Because I know him so well – well at least he can’t fib! ;-) I know what makes him tick; well you would after twenty years of marriage wouldn’t you? Loving him as I do I wanted to help Dylan readers get to know him too for in ‘getting to know’ Bob you will have the basis of our character DI Jack Dylan. One of the hardest things to do as a couple who write together, for me anyway, has been learning to tease out of Bob his deep seated emotions. Our readers are all aware, or I think they are now, that Dylan is loosely based on Bob and Jen on me – and I reiterate ‘loosely’!  Primarily this is so that we can give you the thoughts, feelings and sights from our experience of time within the police force and as husband and wife. Bob’s work meant that he dealt with man’s inhumanity to man daily from behind the ‘mask of the detective’ to get him to drop that mask has been very hard. ‘Let your feelings get in the way at a major incident scene and subsequently the investigation and you’re no good to the team,’ he says.

  Bob at the scene of a murder.

 Bob infront of the world media.

So when it came to writing the feelings of Dylan for our novels they had to be, sometimes unwillingly brought to the fore. We have laughed out loud, cried and reminisced about those who are no longer with us on our pathway to becoming authors and we continue to do so with every novel we write. Obviously Dylan and Jen’s story is not ‘our lives’, we add the drama, but the stories are written from the head and our hearts of ones who have been there and from Bob’s point of view seen it all.

 

Bob Bridgestock

Bob, you joined the police force when yow were 21yrs old but what were you doing before that?

I passed my 11+ and went to Grammar School, excelling only in running the mile and the half mile events and representing the school in the cross country though. I suffered badly all through primary school with severe migraines and as a youngster regularly passed out – much to the annoyance of my teachers. The Doctor’s explanation for this, at the time, was no treatment – I’d grow out of it! Fortunately I did. I left school at the age of 15, prior to taking any exams. The reason being I’d worked in a local butchers shop on a Saturday and was offered a five-year apprenticeship which at that time was not to be missed. I took up the offer and five years later became a fully qualified butcher. By this time I had started smoking and the running had stopped. The smoking however, didn’t stop until a lot later in life when I met Carol.

Back then you could buy one cigarette from the shop immediately outside the school gates. I wonder what profit they made on a packet of 20? They certainly sold a lot and no doubt fuelled my generations addiction.

 Bob as a youngster! His first involvement with the police was when his brother took detornators from a trainline. Admitting his crime to his Dad and giving one of them to Bob, telling him that it was a watch, the police came to get him out of school. Bob had thrown it away – he wasn’t that stupid to think it was a time piece even at the age of seven. This ended with a trip in a police car to find it and a clip around the ear from the police officer and his Dad – if only police officers still had that power today!

From a Butcher to  Policeman – quite a contrast. How did that happen then?

Yes it is, but having enjoyed the work and qualified as a butcher, the job didn’t give me the work satisfaction I was looking for. I was bored and skint. I guess a way forward would have been to start my own business, but loans at that time weren’t readily available, so I decided it was time for a change.

However, during my Butcher training came my second ‘run in’ with the police. One evening as I was travelling home on a bus from college, the bus stopped. An officer got on and pointed to me. ‘You, off,’ he demanded. The bus went on it’s way. Is that blood on that smock under your arm?’ asked the police officer. Bob nodded. ‘Yes, officer.’ he said. ‘Why? How’d it get there?’ ’Well the smock’s a butchers so I guess I thought that gave it away?’ said Bob. ‘Less of your cheek,’ said the officer giving him a clip around the ear. ‘Remember to put it in a plastic bag next time.’ Not only had he spent all the money Bob had on his bus fare but he had to walk the six miles home.  

I got a job at a local Dyeworks, tripling my wage overnight, but after sporting whatever colour we were using at the time as my hair colour for two years, I was more than ready to move on…

 A proud officer in uniform.

So the police service. The words on your long service certificate shows that you did thirty years of service retiring thereafter after having a distinguished and exemplary career during which you received numerous awards and commendation for outstanding work from high court judges to chief constables. What perhaps a lot of people don’t know is that you were also a hostage negotiator for terrorism, kidnap, extortion and suicide intervention. You were always busy but do you have any highs and lows in that job that you can tell us about that stand out for you during that time?

 Bob in his ‘Sweeney’ CID days.

I worked as a detective at every rank, learning my trade from the best. Ultimately I became ‘the’ man in charge of major investigations. A job I set my heart on when entering the Criminal Investigation Department.

The high and low I guess is that I am lucky to have survived the job. It’s not easy being a police officer in any era. I was fortunate.  I attended hospital on quite a few occasions after being attacked but thankfully I was not disabled or killed like some of my colleagues.

It makes me sad that my parents didn’t live beyond their sixtieth birthday to see how I turned out and the results I had in the major incidents I took charge of in the latter years of my service. In the last three years alone I took charge of twenty six murder enquiries, twenty four major incidents, which included drive by shootings, attempt murders, rapes etc. over fifty suspicious deaths and numerous sexual assaults. The only reason I know these figures is that the four Senior Investigating Officers, of which I was one of in the fourth largest police force in England, had to complete monthly returns for Headquarters to account for our working hours. The accounting was the last thing we all needed as the figures did show we were overworked, overwhelmed and the last thing we needed was further stress by having to account for our working hours. Personally the amount of work I was doing was brought home to me the day I was giving evidence in three different murder trials, on the same date, in the same Crown Court. Even the  high court judges remarked on it.

You’ve had an interesting and demanding career. Was writing something that you always intended to do when you retired?

I get asked that question all the time. If I’d kept notes throughout my career in readiness to start writing I’d never have got any work done. The answer to that question is a most definite no.  Even if I had, had the foresight I wouldn’t have had the time. When a job breaks you run with it and that means 24/7 and when its relatively quiet their is the paperwork, the knocking on doors for statements. The court cases. It was suggested that I write a factual novel about the murders I took charge of in the first instance, but that is something I would never consider. My thoughts and support has always been and always will be with the victim of crime and their families. The horrific nature of the incidents, are continuously brought to the fore by the media. I would never add to the family’s ongoing trauma, it’s them that serve a life sentence.

Having left the Police service and moved away from the area to avoid being roped back into the lifestyle on retirement, Carol and I set up home in the South of England, far from the maddening crowds and with no necessity to carry pagers and mobiles – bliss! It was four years later after renovating our home and getting to know our local community that the ‘writing bug’ started, after numerous people on hearing my life story said, ‘You should write a book.’

  ‘Write a book? You must be joking.’ That was a challenge that would be put in the ‘too difficult drawer’ for a long time in. However, in my life fate seems to lend a hand in things that are meant to be and to my disbelief in the weekly Isle of Wight Country Press an advert was published for the local college which read, ‘Write your first novel’.  I enrolled both of us on impulse. Getting me to write a book was something Carol had always wanted me to do, more of an autobiography for the grand children though because of my ’intresting’ life. I don’t think for one minute she or I thought we would become husband and wife authors of crime fiction. This was though the start of our writing career and where the very first draft of Deadly Focus was written – in long hand. We still have that copy in the cupboard today. How do you write together we’re often asked? We are a bit like the tortoise and the hare. I set off at pace and write the story from start to finish usually around 60, to 70,000. Carol then goes through it, trashing some parts, develops the characters and adds the scenes, the drama and emotion. We then sit down together and work through every sentence, until we are satisfied that every word is relevant and moves the story forward. Then and only then do we forward it to our publisher for the professional edit.

We write daily, seven days a week and promote our books through social media, talks about our police careers and our writing, where all proceeds go to the Earl Mountbatten Hospice, a charity very close to our hearts. Whilst writing I have a tendency not to read, especially crime novels, so I don’t become distracted or influenced by their storylines. I write from the heart and with personal experience introduced throughout the novel. Carol reads but only the classics – she too finds reading especially the same genre too distracting.

It was awesome to hear our first book in the DI Dylan series, ‘Deadly Focus’ in the audiobook format. The full version covered by Electric Breeze Audio read by Paul Ansdell is fantastic, if you haven’t heard it you can listen to two chapters free of charge by going to Caffeine Nights Publishers website www.caffeine-nights.com

Share something with me which others may not know…

In a subjective exam, whilst studying to be a butcher one of the questions was, ‘How should gelatine be handled?’ I’m sure the examiner is still laughing at my answer today. I misread it to read; ‘How should gelignite be handled.’ I could have been the first butcher with exploding pork pies!!!

Who would you like to share a cuppa with and what would it be?

I am a caffeine addict, always have been and always will be. It kept me going through the long working hours. Even our publisher’s are called Caffeine Nights! It must have been fate!

It may sound cheesy but it has to be Carol. We spend all our time together and never get bored with each other’s company. She makes great coffee, although she prefers tea…

Good answer! ;-) Tell our readers how you relax?

We have two English Springer Spaniels, Belle and Vegas who is one of her five pups that we bred six year ago. Walking them twice a day, in all weathers across the fields that run out the back of our house or on the beach which is a stone’s throw away is a great way of relaxing for us both, and if we have to trip off the island Carol’s mum and dad, who live in our annexe look after them for us.

What would you spend  lottery win on?

Securing financial stability for all the family and then giving some to deserving charities of which there are many.

A big diamond doesn’t come into the equation then???? Favourite nibble/food?

Not really a nibble but bacon features at the top of my list of favourite foods. When I’m writing I chew away on Mr Men sweets and Haribo Gummy sweets or Midget Gems.

Do you listen to music or does your working evnvironment have to be silent?

It depends at what stage I’, at with the manuscript. As I start I like silence with limited interruptions, but as the chapters progress and the story flows at pace then I like the background music, the thinking at this stage for me is less intense. I guess I’m lucky in that respect as my part in each novel is running an ‘actual’ enquiry and the road you take with each Dylan book is how it really happens, with all my feelings and thoughts and what I would see and hear. As far as police procedure goes you can’t get it more accurate and I check out with my contacts all the up to date policies and computer systems. I have lived through numerous enquiries with their twists and turns, so I use that experience to tell our fictional stories.

What do you carry in your pocket?

A wallet and a handkerchief.

What are your pet hates?

People who have no respect for others – the takers in life.

People who drive whilst using the mobile phones.

I’m afraid I don’t suffer fools gladly!

What’s your earlist memory?

Having a Mohican haircut around the 1950’s at the local barbers. My Mum was a fan of Saturday night wrestling on TV and  one of her hero’s was Billy Two Rivers who dressed like a Mohican Indian and did a war dance before giving his opponent the karate chop!  

Best advice about writing you would give?

Finish what you start. It is a long and difficult road that many people start  but never finish.

What’s your favourite TV programme at the moment, favourite show and favourite book of all time?

Three questions in one, you wouldn’t be allowed that in an interview but the answer is ANYTHING written by Sally Wainwright! She is an absolute star for her tenacity in getting police procedure correct – which is very rare for todays script writers it appears judging on recent police procedurals that have recently been on the box! Which is one of the reasons we were honoured and ‘pleased as punch’ to be asked to work with her on a new police series for BBC 1 which will air summer 2014.  It’s called  HAPPY VALLEY – http://www.tvthrong.co.uk/2012/11/bbc-one-announces-new-drama-commissions/

Happy Valley

A 6×60 series written by Sally Wainwright (Last Tango In Halifax, Scott & Bailey) and made by Red Production Company.

Catherine Crowther is the sergeant on duty when flustered, nervous-looking accountant Colin Weatherill comes into her West Yorkshire police station to report a crime. He’s reticent about the details and Colin loses his nerve. The crime he was trying to report was Colin’s own brain-child, a plot to kidnap his boss’s daughter and keep enough of the ransom to put his kids through private school. And now local drug king-pin David Cowgill has put the plan into action, and Colin’s fantasy has become a grim and dangerous reality. The botched kidnapping of eccentric, angry Ann Gallagher and its fallout unfolds… Catherine is used to picking up the pieces of everyone else’s lives but the hunt for Ann Gallagher will get right under her skin. Catherine becomes convinced that only by finding Ann alive and bringing her captors to justice can she avenge the death of her daughter.

The executive producer for Red is Nicola Shindler and Matthew Read for the BBC.

Favourite show has got to be Les Miserables and my favourite book of all time is one I got presented to me as a child at Sunday school, Tom Sawyer.

Is there anything else you want to share with us?

Becoming published authors is a whole new career and we’ll never be able to thank Darren E Laws at Caffeine Nights Publishers enough for signing us up for the DI Dylan series, and the work and commitment he has continued to give us since. Thanks a bunch Darren!

Our readers will see more from Dylan and Jen in 2013 and ‘Deadly Focus’ is being translated into Korean and being published in South Korea in 2014, a deal that was brokered by our foreign writes Literary Agent Monika Luukkenon and Caffeine Nights Publishers.

And there is lots more going on behind the scenes for Carol and I. Book 4 ‘Snow Kills’ is out November this year on Amazon- although we are holding a gala night launch at Prego Cafe Bar & Restaurant on 3rd November http://www.waterfrontlodge.co.uk/Contact/ for tickets and for those of you who can’t make it there Le Metro in Halifax http://www.lemetropolitain.co.uk/ are holding a Literary Lunch 7th November 2013.  We are just about to sign a contract with a Turkish publisher for all three of our books, that are already published in the UK again brokered by our foreign writes literary agent Monika Luukkenon, to be translated and published in Turkey. We are also working on another BAFTA nominated  police series Scott & Bailey that has just been announced! Also, the first of the Dylan series is about to be written as a script for TV… we live in hope of seeing Dylan on th telly. Keep watching this space and you won’t be disappointed I promise!

Before I go can I just say one thing?

You always have to have the last word don’t you…. ;-) Anyone who knows Bob knows this is true! :-)

DI Dylan followers are THE BEST! Thanks to everyone for your support!

Well, I can’t disagree with you there! Ha ha! I had the last word… ;-)

Bye for now!

Awh…Shucks!!!

Bob xxx

Read more about Bob Bridgestock and the ‘jobs’ he took charge of by googling Bob Bridgestock.

Our work can be found on Caffeine Nights Publishers website @ www.caffeine-nights.com

Our website can be found at www.rcbridgestock.com and this is our blog www.blog.rcbridgestock.com where you can often see some of Bob’s rants or crime prevention advice.

 

Christmas short story competition winning stories from the Isle of Wight!

 
 
The Presentation Ceremony at Newport Minster
 
For the past five years Bob & I have organised a Christmas short story competiton along with our writing circle to try to inspire others on the Isle of Wight to read and write, especially the children. Not only has this competition and the ‘Crime & Intrigue’  short story competiton we organise in the Spring now resulted in 24 published writers but they have also made thousands for local charities. To enable us to attract entries we are very blessed to have the most amazing sponsors which include our local Waterstones and Southampton and Portsmouth  football clubs. This year Julian Fellowes backed the advertising campaign and so did Brendan Coyle of  Downton fame! :-)  
 
The winners of our competitions are  also invited to the IW Radio Studio where they are interviewed by Heather McCallum on her afternoon show. This extra prize is always very exciting for us all, so a big thanks goes to Heather and IW Radio. There are pictures on our website (which is sponsored by www.theisleofwightcomputergeek.co.uk) of previous winners in the studio @ www.iowwritingcircle.co.uk.
 
This year I wanted to share some of the winning stories and pictures of the presentation evening with you but first of all I wanted to say a great big well done to everyone who wrote a story for our 2012 Isle of Wight ‘Wight Fair Writers’ Circle Christmas short story competition’ – especially those who managed to achieve one of the 24 prizes  which are  listed below. 
 
A very special thank you goes to the  independent judges, for without them this competition would not be possible and to the High Sheriff Nick Hayward and Chair of the IW Council Susan Scoccia.
 
 
We raised over £600 for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice and St Catherine’s School in this, our fifth year of the competition and once again achieved three more published authors from the IOW into the bargain!
 
 
The Under 12′s winning story, by Tad Avery will be published this week’s Isle of Wight County Press and here it is!
 

The Night Before Christmas

It was a cold Christmas Eve but I was keeping warm by whizzing along on my scooter trying my best to do a tailwhip. A tailwhip, for those of you who don’t know is where you jump up and try to spin your deck 360 degrees and land it with both feet. Unfortunately I was finding this very hard and one attempt ended with the deck spinning into my ankle which made me fall over and brought tears to my eyes, this is known a ‘stack’ which means epic fail!

“Hey stack of the day what a complete mess!” To my horror I turned around to see Max also known as Maximum Destruction and his gang who had been watching my wipe out. Max and I didn’t get along very well. They all started laughing at me which made me feel angry. “Well can you do better?” I shouted. “No problem,” he replied and snatched my scooter. Then he pulled off the trick perfectly. It was amazing. Max then threw my scooter down and shouted “Loser,” before walking away.

I scootered home feeling really silly and thought that playing on the play station would cheer me up. However 30 minutes later I found myself being chucked out of the house by my dad asking me to buy some milk.

It had started to get dark but I thought it wouldn’t hurt if I went down to the skatepark for a bit. There was no one there or at least I thought there was no one there.  I went up and down the ramps but I noticed there was someone hunched up in the corner. I scooted over to see if there was something wrong and recognised that it was Max who looked really miserable.

“What’s wrong?’ I said expecting him to be rude as usual but he said nothing. “Hey Max, what is wrong?” I said again. “Go away,” came the reply in a muffled and miserable voice. “Seriously, what is wrong?” I persisted. “Well I will tell you, on one condition that you tell NO ONE!” Max replied. “Sure, you can trust me,” and I sat down next to him.

“Well last Christmas my dad just walked out and my mum has lost her job so things are a bit chaotic right now,” he said. This made me think about Max and his life and I felt sorry for him. “Max that must be difficult. My granny died this year and I have been thinking about that and how much I will miss her this Christmas, “I said. “Christmas is funny huh? It can be a great time of year but it can be sad when you think about other people who are going through hard times or may not have as much as you, “I blurted out.

“Yeah it is funny time of year but not as funny as you making that rubbish trick earlier on,” he joked trying to make me laugh. “How about I teach you how to land that tailwhip?” Max said. “Really, that would be awesome, it would be the best Christmas present,’ I replied.

For the next hour Max and I had the skakepark to ourselves. He patiently taught me how to do a tailwhip which I eventually pulled off. It started to get really dark and I knew I had to make a move. “I’ll have to go now, got to get some milk,” I said. “Does that mean we are friends?” I asked. “I will think about it,” he said acting all tough. I began to walk off and then he shouted, “Hey, you are alright, see you around!”

“Happy Christmas Max,” I said.

“Yeah, Happy Christmas to you,” Max replied.

 

The End

 

 The Adult winning entry Colour & Light written by Hannah Saunders will be published on the Isle of Wight County Press online and you can read it here…

Colour and Light

 Berkshire, 1911

 ‘Come away from the window, Robert. You need to wash before dinner.’

 

Robert didn’t move. He wiped away another cloud of breath from the glass and stared down at the lawn outside, which was already becoming white and crisp with frost. The nanny strode over and wrestled him to a basin filled with hot water. She attacked his cheeks, neck and ears with a rough cloth as he wriggled in her iron grip.

 

‘You are a naughty boy,’ she snapped when she was done, a little out of breath. Robert immediately broke away and ran back to the window seat. ‘Your mother will be hearing about this. If you’re not downstairs for dinner in five minutes you will get nothing.’

 

Robert didn’t know if mother would really find out about his naughtiness. If she had heard about him letting the dog out of the front gate, or building mud castles on the lawn, or spitting the gristle from cook’s nasty stew into the potted aspidistra in the hallway, then she must not have minded. She never mentioned it in her letters to him, at least. He imagined her laughing over nanny’s lengthy list of admonishments and complaints; a warm kind mass of silk and curled hair and heavy floral scent, the paper crinkled in her small white hand. Robert felt the mounting sadness within him grow stronger than ever.

 

Five minutes passed; then thirty, then an hour. The nursery grew quite dark. Flames hissed and crackled in the fireplace, throwing dancing red patterns out onto the carpet. Robert moved away from the window – the draught had numbed his nose and fingers – and sat in front of the ornate fire screen.

 

Tomorrow would be Christmas Day. A grand tree had been erected in the parlour, draped with paper chains and strings of berries. There were little sweets and tin soldiers and gingerbread men nestled in amongst the sticky needles of the branches, and an angel perched at the very top. Robert wasn’t allowed to touch, and could only come as far as the parlour doorway to admire it. There would be games and candied fruit and a fat roasted goose on the table tomorrow evening; or there might not be, if nanny didn’t look kindly upon his earlier disobedience. His aunt, the lady of the house, was prone to frequent nervous episodes and was rarely seen outside of her bedroom, and as a result did not play any part in Robert’s discipline. He remembered that tonight’s dinner had come and gone and his stomach groaned pitifully.

 

Robert had already accepted that this Christmas was going to be the worst he’d ever had. In fact, it would probably never be the same again. Last Christmas had been spent by his parents’ side, and every Christmas before that. But this year was different. At six years old, the displacement had shaken him more than anyone would have suspected.

 

The fire began to die, and Robert started to doze and dream in the last of its warmth.

 

He is sitting in a carriage with his mother and father, rolling through the dusty streets on an orange Bombay evening. Their progress is slow, the city still frantic with people, life flowing around them as unhindered as a river. The red, gold and green of an English Christmas seemed incredibly plain when he thought back to that previous winter, when every house and shop and market stall had erupted with a million colours, every colour that you could imagine. His world had been exotic and fantastical, but at the time it had seemed nothing out of the ordinary.  For instance, the cows. There are cows in England, too, but these ones are quite different; he recalls their carriage stopping behind one noble beast, her huge white head dusted with bright colours and with fragrant garlands caught in her horns and draped around her neck. She walks slowly, ceremoniously, and everyone waits patiently for her to pass. Instead of omnibuses there are elephants. In a basket writhes the naja naja with his hooded head and flickering tongue. Over the river drifts the ibis, and the amber-eyed shikra sits and watches from the branches of a moringa tree.

The stars never revealed themselves that night, banished by the lighting of thousands of candles and lamps. When he and his parents finally reach the house their doorstep has been decorated with a lotus made with carefully arranged coloured sand. Their young servant girl stands back shyly, smiling, her fingertips stained pink and orange. Mother adores it, but father disapproves and gives her a scolding. It must be cleared away before the night is through.

 

Later Robert notices that the girl – named Anupama, or Anu for short – is a lot quieter than usual when she helps prepare him for bed. He sits wakefully beneath the covers, waiting for her to tell him one of her exciting old stories, but she remains silent. Eventually she sits at the foot of the bed and sighs. Robert looks at her expectantly.

‘I hear you’re going to England,’ she says after a time. Robert realises that this isn’t the beginning of a story and makes a disappointed noise.

‘Not before Christmas,’ he says.

‘Christmas?’

‘It’s when Father Christmas visits and brings gifts with him. There’s a tree, too, and lots of sweets.’

‘Oh, yes,’ Anu replies thoughtfully, ‘Baba Christmas.’

‘Are you coming with me to England?’

‘I might,’ she says, patting the sheets by his feet absently.

‘Good. Now you don’t need to be sad anymore. I know why you’re sad, it’s because you’re thinking that you’ll miss me.’

Anu smiles wanly and stands. She goes to close the shutters but pauses before she does so, looking out across the city that shimmers like fragments of jewels on black cloth. Robert quickly climbs out of bed to join her.

‘What do you think of diwali?’ she asks him.

‘What’s that?’

A bright flash suddenly erupts above a faraway street, scattering tiny points of fire in every direction. Robert blinks in surprise.

‘This is the festival of diwali. The lights will scare away the darkness. It’s a time to welcome in happiness and wealth.’

Robert nods. ‘I like the colours. It’s a bit like Christmas.’

‘I’m glad you do,’ she says, and pats him on the head. ‘Now, back to bed. I must go and sleep too. Tomorrow I will visit my family. I’ve missed them very much.’

 

The under 18′s winner was Xavier Theobald.

 

The night before Christmas

Santa’s Crisis

 

Santa was getting ready for Christmas he looked out the window it was snowing very hard. He got the reindeers assembled, as usual Rudolf was last off they went.England,France,Italyall was going to plan till they headed toNew York. The reindeers started to get jumpy Santa had to hold on tight then he saw what was the problem. A massive storm was overNew Yorkthere was thunder and lighting the wind was howling there was no way the sleigh could land on the children’s roofs Santa started to panic. Out of the darkness he saw a light flickering. The light got closer; he could not believe his eyes it was the Statue of Liberty!!!!!!!! Walking towards him the flame showed Santa the way toNew York. Santa followed the flame and could see all the houses one of the children was looking out of his window could not believe his eyes the Statue of Liberty was walking thought the streets ofNew Yorkshowing Santa the way. When Santa dropped off the last present he turned to the Statue of Liberty to thank her she disappeared into the night he pinched himself was it a dream? Well all the children got there presents and Santa and the reindeers headed home.

 

 
 
The first place prize winners with little Grace Bridges our youngest entrant at 5yrs old who was also given a certificate for achievement and participation!
From the left Maggie Jones Chair of the WFWC, Linda Edge, Xavier Theobald, Carol Bridgestock, Bob Bridgestock,Hannah Saunders, Heather McCallum and the High Sheriff Nick Hayward. In the front are Grace Bridges and Tad Avery.
 
The prizes this year on offer this year were:-
 
A Car & Four on the IOW Ferry.
 
Sponsored - £10 Waterstones vouchers
 
Family tickets to:-
Dinosaur Museum
IOW Steam Railway
Seaview Wildlife Encounter
Heights Leisure Centre
 
Tickets to:
Southampton v West Bromwich – 27th April
Pompey v Hartlepool – 26th January and a Mascot Voucher!
 
A pearl bracelet
Bracelet and earrings
 
Chocolates
Wine
Cuddly toys!
 
Look out for the ‘Crime & Intrigue’ Competition which will be advertised in the Spring!
 
Happy New Year Everyone!
 
Carol :-) xx
 
 

Bob’s Tips To Ensure Everyone Has A Safe & Enjoyable Christmas

Christmas is a time for everyone to celebrate and have fun but it can also provide opportunities for criminals.
I just want to remind people to follow a number of simple steps which will help prevent your homes from being targeted.
  • Leave it till the last minute to put Christmas presents out under the tree and don’t leave them in view of a window.
  • If you are buying or receiving valuable gifts such as bikes, mobiles or electrical items register them for free at www.immobilise.com. Doing this can assist the police in returning your property should it be lost or stolen.
  • Refrain from keeping large amounts of cash at home.
  • A secure home will reduce the chance of a burglary. Make sure windows and doors are locked and remove keys from sight every time you leave the house.
  • When you go out at night make it appear that someone is home. Draw the curtains and leave a light on. You could always put a lamp or radio on a timer switch.
  • Dispose of packaging carefully by breaking it down before putting it in the bin. Empty boxes left outside can advertise that you have nice new goods inside.
  • If you are going away for Christmas – Inform trusted neighbours that you are away and ask if they will keep an eye on your property and collect your post.
  • Avoid leaving valuables in your vehicle, especially sat navs and electrical items. If you must make sure they are not on display, store in the boot and make sure the car is locked.

Be safe! Have fun!

Merry Christmas!

Bob

 

Dec 16, 2012

Carol’s ‘Close Up’ with Darren E Laws – Author and Publisher who is Trained To Kill!

Carol Bridgestock

 

Today I’m very privileged to interview our very own Santa Claus … Let me explain.

Darren E Laws is not just a fantastic author in his own right and successful in public relations but he is also the CEO of Caffeine Nights Publishing. Three years ago Bob and I submitted our second novel in the Dylan series to his publishing house and let’s just say the rest is history. Caffeine Nights publish fiction for the Heart and the Head and any of their readers will know they do just that.  We feel honored to be amongst their stable of authors.

You will read very little about Darren E Laws on the web or anywhere else come to that. So come with me and let’s try to find out what makes this very private man tick…

Darren E Laws

 ’Sir’.

Darren looks at me with a raised eyebrow and a quizzical smile on his lips.  I grin.  

Tell me about life your life before you started working. What did the young Darren E Laws get up to?

As a teenage I was trained to kill and have subsequently used that skill numerous times to good effect. :) It was training which stood me in good stead as a fiction author who dabbles on the darker side of life’s psyche. I was mad enough to join the Territorial Army and foolishly chose the Royal Marine Commandos. I learnt how to dismantle and reassemble a SLR (Self Loading Rifle) blindfolded. A strange skill but one which I could manage quite ably. I lasted about six months before sense took over and I decided that the world would be a safer place without my soldering skills. I remember a lot of running with backpacks, wading chest deep in frozen lakes on Salisbury Plain, eating horrendous dried food. I think my Chicken Supreme with Chocolate Custard is still remembered to this day. In my defence, it was pitch dark, we were soaking, had not eaten nor slept in 20 hours and were no too choosy.

Who gave you your inspiration to write your first novel? The person who gave me faith in myself is Natalie, my wife. Having someone who believes and supports you is a great motivator.

I believe you wanted to be a writer since you were a teenager, is that right? A couple of days before my first novel was published I was rooting about in our loft and came across a diary I don’t even remember writing. Inside it said that one day I would love to be a novelist. I always used to scribble and write stories so the seed was sown early I guess.

How has life experiences affected your writing? Life influences everything a writes puts down on paper in some way or another. If it doesn’t then there is something wrong. For me, growing up in London’s east end it meant using your imagination in so many ways. We were written off and forgotten by society and to escape and make something of your life you had to be autodidactic, adaptable, ambitious beyond academic, resolute or a criminal.

‘Turtle Island’, a crime thriller was your first published novel that was picked up by an American publisher. When will we see the second in the trilogy ‘Dark Country’ published? It’s been a long time coming due to my work with setting up and running Caffeine Nights. I have been writing it for over five years and its 97% there. I expect it to be out in 2013 though I haven’t set a date yet. I dread to think when the third book will be out, especially as there will be another leftfield novel in-between.

‘Tripping’, the second novel published is a surreal black comedy described as ‘chick noir’. What reactions expected or otherwise did you get when that was published – being so different from ‘Turtle Island’? I like confounding expectations, especially my own. I know people are intelligent enough to take a book for what it is and the world is big enough to find new readers in different genres.

How has your perception of publishers changed since being one yourself? Totally. Sadly many of the things which I thought were wrong with the industry were confirmed pretty quickly and continue to be reinforced on a daily basis. There are many great people out there working to move things forward but the industry is sown up by a cartel intent on keeping it an old boys club. Caffeine Nights is there to irritate the hell out of them every now and then.

Tell me a little about bit about your publishing company? Caffeine Nights is dedicated to becoming a platform and outlet for authors who have great books but been neglected by the industry. Our goal has never changed. We published fiction aimed at the heart and the head…

Why did you want to be a publisher? I ask myself that often in the wee hours when I can’t sleep or when I run into the same old class driven BS that permeates the business. However, the simple answer is to show the publishing world what it is missing.

How do you decide what titles to publish? It’s a simple criterion; do I like the books, do I like the authors, do I think we can work together? The novel has to grab me at some level. I have to engage with the characters and care about them. If that doesn’t happen it’s highly likely that it won’t make it onto our list. Even if it does that is not the end of the story (pardon the pun), there are at least 3 books that I would have loved to have published but I found for one reason or another I could not work with the author. I guess I can be difficult.

What do you look for in a good submission? I look for passion in the submission itself. Anyone who sends me an email saying ‘when are you open for submissions’ or ‘will you please look at my novel’ has little chance or inspiring me to read their work. I had one submission that simply said ‘spread the love’…I love the delete button on my computer.

Is the synopsis, letter or blub the real ‘breaker’ as our creative writing teachers tell us? The approach is as vital as the quality of the work. I have little time for people who waste my time. I want your passion, talent and commitment.

If you could work with any author in the world who would it be? There are a number of authors I would love to sign and work with in that sense, but writing is a solitary process for me so in terms of writing with anybody it just wouldn’t work. There is an artist I would love to work with in the sense of publishing, and that is Ben Drew, better known as Plan B. He is a great story teller and comes from my neck of the woods and I am sure that he has a great novel in him.

EBooks and digital publishing is the future but do you wonder if the industry is losing its roots in the high street or is there room for both? The industry is going through a revolution and will continue to be affected by the impact of digital for another 5 to 10 years. What will be left of the high street by then will be anyone’s guess. Bookshops may go the way of record shops. Many do little to help themselves, sadly.

Where do you see yourself/the publishing industry in five years time? Bookshops need to radically rethink their offering to survive and open up to change. They also need to embrace local talent and see the benefits of how the community of readers and writers can bring added value to their business. In five years time digital will be the established norm but paper books will still be with us. Publishers need to know who their readers are and use social media to talk directly with them. Where do I see myself and Caffeine Nights in five years? I may be close to completing my Georgina O’Neil trilogy and Caffeine Nights will go from strength to strength. It would be great to have a few bestsellers by then, some film and TV deals and be respected in the industry.

Darren Laws is a workaholic, I know, you give to your authors 110% of yourself and we in the Caffeine Nights stable are very lucky to have that personal touch and contact with you. How on earth do you manage your time to fit in the writing, publishing and your work as a public relations professional? I’ll sleep when I’m dead :-)

How much difference do you think a good cover makes? This is an interesting question as clearly many very successful self-published titles have covers which really suck but sell really well. For me, it is important to have something which relates to the story and looks great. I am very proud of the quality and standard of covers we consistently produce and have Wills to thank for being able to interpret my ramblings so darned well.

What about the title? A good title is as important and works in relation to a great cover. It’s the authors hook. The blurb is your elevator pitch, your sixty second sell.

What do you think makes a good book sell? I could be cynical and say heaps of money and a slick marketing plan which is true for the big six, but us wee minnows have to be prepared to play the long game and continue to build an audience over a period of time. This doesn’t interest the larger publishers. I would love to say great writing, but many great books are overlooked and many crap ones with huge marketing budgets become million sellers.

What makes you angry about the current publishing industry? Running into greed, apathy and unrealistic attitudes especially from book stores. Many book stores complain about their lot since the advent of digital and eBooks eroding their bottom line but still refuse to stock books, even on a sale or return basis, or host book signing events. This is the only industry where the supplier takes all the risks and still we are met with apathy on many occasions, and sadly independent book shops are the worst offenders. We had one store recently tell us that they could not host a book signing with one of our authors unless we could guarantee 80 sales. This attitude will see them go the way of the dinosaur pretty quickly. This was a local book store that should be encouraging (at no financial risk to themselves) local author events and promoting them to their community. It is a sad indictment on the industry today. Pretentiousness is another of my bug bears. There is a heck of a lot of it. People who strive to think they are above other people through class, position or social standing. I also have little time for people who act as though the world owes them a favour or have a complete sense of humour bypass. Give me talent, graft and sheer bloody minded determined ambition any day.

How important do you think social media is? Vital for all publishers but more so for small publishers. It’s great being able to engage with people who buy and read our books. We have much to learn from them and if we listen, we can be the sort of publisher they deserve.

www.caffeine-nights.com

www.facebook.com/CaffeineNights

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/caffeinenights/

www.twitter.com/caffeinenights

What are the biggest problems facing publishers these days? There’s no real bogeyman lurking that we don’t know about; we all face different challenges. I think the majority of the industry has got to grips with digital and is quite savvy with its social media offering. For smaller publishers we can be at an advantage as we can react to change and adapt quicker. For instance our back catalogues are invariably much smaller, so converting to new formats or platforms is easier. Caffeine Nights biggest challenge is getting wider distribution into stores and it is something I will be working hard to rectify in 2013.

What do you consider your best accomplishment? Waking up.

It’s nearly 2013. If I could grant you one wish what would it be? I would ask for it to be given to my wife, Natalie.

Ten books you want to read/re read on your desert island before you’re rescued?

I could easily list all our books on Caffeine Nights and many of them should be there but it would be like picking your favourite child. So I have ignored this and returned to books which formed me as a reader. I have many books I have enjoyed reading and rarely if ever, returned to them so being stranded would give me a chance to re-visit old friends. I would love to have a list of many literary classics including Shakespeare, Hardy, Austen and their ilk but these are all books I thoroughly enjoyed. In no particular order.

  • The Rats – James Herbert. I read this when I was about 12 and it thrilled me. Primarily because some of the book was set in east London and it was a good, bloody horror. I subsequently read all of James Herbert’s books and met the man at a few book signings. I still have the books.
  • Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk. I read this before seeing the film and thought it was un-filmable and a great book.  A very funny and a biting satire on the consumer age and the fragility of man. David Fincher produced a fantastic visulisation of the book that is near pitch perfect. Palahniuk is tremendously funny and often stretches his readers by adopting challenging writing styles but he is always worth reading.
  • Heart of a Dog – Mikhail Bulgakov – Written in 1925, the language of the translation I read really sizzled and totally engrossed me in a very dark satire of communism. It’s not the sort of book I normally read but was recommended to me and I was blown away by it. I am sure much of the satire shot over my head but the story was truly fascinating.
  • Jaws – Peter Benchley – I read this after seeing Spielberg’s wonderful film which still stands up. The book I recall was quite different from the film adaptation and is sitting less than a foot away from me on a pile of books to re-read. Benchley died young and I think was haunted by the success of that bloody shark.
  • Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow – Peter Hoeg  – This novel introduced me to Scandinavian fiction. It’s a great read. Part detective fiction, part cultural observation and definitely Scandinavian. The pervading atmosphere conjured by Hoeg is something which many authors from the region seem to excel in. I love Smilla Jaspersen. She is a cold character who distances herself from life and is absorbed by her work as a scientist specializing in snow. Smilla is drawn into an investigation of the death of a young boy she befriends. The Boy’s mother is an alcoholic Inuit and his death leads Smilla to discovering a conspiracy by a large drilling company which has contaminated water with a lethal parasite. This also led to the death of the boy’s father. Hoeg is not afraid to let the reader try to work out what happened and it is a book which makes you think as you read it.
  • Casino Royale – Ian Fleming – I recently picked this up and read the first page and was immediately drawn in. Fleming paints with words and the book seemed as fresh and vibrant as the recent remake starring Daniel Craig. It’s on my list of books I want to read.
  •  The Man Who Smiled – Henning Mankell. More bleak Scandinavian fiction featuring Mankell’s lead detective Kurt Wallander. A man with more flaws than a high-rise apartment. I found this a slow paced burner but definitely worth sticking with. A little too bleak at times and I do wonder what even the smallest injection of humour might do to this sort of psychological thriller.
  • Dreamcatcher – Stephen King – A simply wonderful and barkingly mad book. I love King’s writing in this. Although King aficionados probably don’t rate this book, it kept me enthralled on a number of journeys to London about 10 years ago.
  • A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens – The ultimate ghost and redemption story. Although only a short story usually found bundled in a selection of Dickens short story collections, this story grabbed my attention as a boy and I try to read it every year at Christmas.  Dickens is another author that captures atmosphere and creates scenes while passing on social comment with biting comment on the times of the day.
  • American Psycho – Brett Easton Ellis – Definitely a book for the X-Factor generation. A savage satire written so skillfully to entice and engage you in the action of Ellis’s protagonist, Patrick Bateman. Ellis poses many questions about modern society that are still pertinent, even though this book was written over 20 years ago. The pace of the novel make it a real page turner and stomach churner, however it is a must read.

If should you want to read more Darren’s blog site is him having a rant about publishing: http://darrenlaws.blogspot.com

 Thanks Darren. You’re a pleasure to work with and great to interview! Have a lovely Christmas and we’re looking forward to a very exciting year with Caffeine Nights Publishing.

Watch this space everyone for the new titles! :-)

Carol x

 

 

Bob’s Tips to motorists to help prevent car crime during the festive season

 
 
Bob’s Tips to motorists to help prevent car crime during the festive season
 
With Christmas coming and the possibility that cars may have more items of value in them, police are reminding motorists to make sure they always lock and secure vehicles, no matter how short a time it is being left.
Most offences of theft from vehicle are opportunist. If valuable possessions (e.g. handbags, laptops, sat navs, iPods, mobile phones, cameras) are left on show inside a vehicle, it is much more likely to be targeted by thieves.
Even items of little value, such as shopping bags and clothing, may tempt a potential thief to break into the vehicle to see whether they contain anything worth stealing.
Statistics show that  a high percentage of all theft from motor vehicles is committed by car thieves exploiting an insecurity like an unlocked door or open window. A lower percentage however,  is still committed by smashing a window to reach items left on display.
Offences can take place during the day or night, with a significant proportion relating to vehicles parked on driveways in addition to when parked on the street or in a public car park.
The following section contains crime prevention and reduction advice for motorists and car park owners that will assist police and partners to reduce this type of vehicle crime.
 
Advice:
  • Avoid leaving your purchases and presents in you vehicle. If you must make sure they are not on display, store in the boot and make sure the car is locked
  • Keep your car keys safe. Do not leave them inside your car or in the ignition.
  • Don’t leave your keys in a coat pocket.
  • Sports changing rooms can be targeted by thieves who look for car keys left in coat pockets.
  • Make sure that your keys are not visible to other people.
  • Always make sure your car doors and windows are locked.
  • Park your car in a garage.
  • If you don’t have a garage, try to park in a well-lit, open place.
  • When using a car park, choose one that is well-supervised, has entry and exit points, good lighting and security. Avoid parking in dark spots.
  • Consider fitting security devices that are approved by either Thatcham or Sold Secure.
  • All security devices should be fitted by a professional.
  • If it’s portable, take the sat nav with you together with the support cradle and suction pads.
  • Wipe away any marks left by the suction pads as thieves will look out for these.
  • Don’t leave your equipment in the glove compartment – thieves usually check here first.
  • Consider fitting GPS or VHF tracking devices.
 

Bob’s December Rant! Ever the Optimist or am I just a Grumpy Old Man!

Bob’s December Rant!

Anyone who knows me is aware that I am an optimist. Well I’ve had to be since I’ve seen the worst of man’s inhumanity to man over my thirty year police career. Twenty eight of those years were in the Criminal Investigation Department, so I really did see it at its worst, at times. But I’ve always tried to look on the bright side of life, even in the darkest hour of a murder investigation.

Today however I am beginning to struggle to comprehend some of ‘our’ actions as I read today’s newspapers, or am I simply becoming a grumpy old man?

A coalition Government I know was never going to be ideal, but the idea was surely that they pulled together? Maybe no one actually told them that? As for the opposition, they simply aren’t. MP’s have never had less credibility and they continue to fail to impress. Members continue to lose numerous laptops. They are spending millions abroad –  £15 million on Columbian flatulent cows, and talking about wind over £60 million in assisting other countries to develop geo-thermal and wind power. Under the budget heading ‘International Aid’ we hand out millions but do we see value for our money. Where is the investment in the UK?

Talking of VFM (value for money) – who the hell came up with the following ideas?

  A ‘Fair Access Tsar’ to encourage the elite Universities to ‘let-in’ a wider range of students. Two days a week, working from home – earning £45,OOO per annum.

Police Commissioners – they’re now selecting deputies at an even greater expense. I thought the idea was to make this role a ‘one man’ post instead of several on a committee? These people can also keep their second jobs I hear but only two members of the public were allowed to apply.  Is anyone going to be upfront and tell us what other perks will be available to them? Once again this appears to be something that once again the majority didn’t vote for, and still don’t agree with, but hey, who cares – not the ones getting the salary for sure.

Big businesses don’t pay tax for years which is only now identified or action taken, can you imagine if that had been you or I not paying our dues?

We can’t even stop people outside the UK making millions by bombarding the British public with daily ‘nuisance’ telephone calls about PPI monies allegedly owed.

Neither can we evict from our Country major terrorists or Criminals. Human rights have been around for a long time, what happened to forward planning?

The old chestnut of ‘Decriminalisation of Drugs’ comes to the fore suggesting ‘A Royal Commission’. Come on everyone knows the destruction caused by drugs, so wouldn’t this be a licence to kill? The lower level drugs have and will remain the gateway to the more destructive drugs such as heroin, cocaine etc, etc and I have seen the ‘fall out’ many, many times. People suggest that ‘some’ drugs are no worse than cigarettes and alcohol but we also know really the misery they cause. They are regularly used in mitigation for committing crime, ‘It was to feed a habit or it was because they had taken a cocktail of drink or drugs,’ the defence solicitor will say.  Rubbish, they’re adults they know the consequences of their actions and should be held to account for it like anyone else.’

We have a duty of care. Do we really want to decriminalise drugs?  Some states in America have done and now sell marijuana flavoured lollipops to children or introduce drugs into lip balm? Is this what we want, a catalyst to addiction? Will they become used in everyday products? The war against drugs will always be difficult but it is necessary and we should continue to disrupt and destroy the importation. Not everything from America is good.

The Government needs to start listening to the majority, only then can they assist the minority. We need more investment at home, re-boot the housing market and not just for first time buyers.  We know that this market has a knock on effect for all industry. Put more Police on the streets not build further hierarchy and let’s create deterrents that make people think twice about offending in the UK. Giving cautions in some cases is just a mockery, ask any police officer.

 Imprisonment should mean just that. I see if you’re in prison you can go out daily using the prison as a B & B. Prison is supposed to be a last resort a punishment. It has become home for numerous prolific re- offenders simply returning to the hive when they can’t cope or don’t want to cope in the outside world.

Well I’ve got all that off my chest so that must be a Positive.

All that remains is to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and very best wishes for 2013.

 Bob

 

 

 

Carol’s ‘Close Up’ Today with Author Ruth Jacobs!

My ‘Close Up’ today is with Ruth Jacobs and I am very excited to tell you she has joined us in the stable of authors at Caffeine Nights Publishers! I’ve never met Ruth before so let’s find out more about her together shall we? :-)

 Ruth Jacobs 

 

 Hello Ruth, Lovely to meet you! Tell me how on earth do you manage to juggle working and writing?

And looking after my children too! I usually write in the evenings, which is the only time I can write as I work in the daytime. But it’s a good time of day for me as I am not a morning person, and usually wake up properly sometime in the evening, so it’s the best time for my writing, especially creativity. However, for editing, proofreading, and rewriting work, I try not to do it too late because accuracy is essential, so I don’t feel confident doing that if I’m tired.

What inspired you to write a novel in the first place?

I first began writing a novel when I was sixteen years old. Traumatic experiences inspired that novel, and the inspiration for my debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, which is being published next year, has also been traumatic experiences.

Who do you admire in the literary world? Who do you consider your mentor?

I’ve read so many books, but because of a misspent youth involving drug addiction and overdoses, and also having posttraumatic stress disorder, I have a terrible memory. I know what I’ve read mainly because I’ve got the books on my bookshelf. There will also be more, but those books I’ve either given away or leant and they’ve been unreturned. I can remember being really taken by Martin Amis at one time and, at another time, Martina Cole but I can’t remember what any of their novels were about even though I might have read most or all of their work available at the time. However, although I don’t remember consciously, I do believe that what I have read has an impact on my writing, but that it’s at a subconscious level – kind of how when you can’t remember the words to a song, then when you hear the tune, suddenly, you can sing the words. So, they were stored in the memory but not immediately accessible.

Where do you work? Do you have a regular pattern or routine?

I tend to type on the sofa with my laptop on my lap. The only issue with that is that my rather large Lurcher thinks he’s a lapdog sometimes and gets between me and the laptop. That’s when I have to stretch over him to type. I don’t have a routine at all right now, but living with bipolar disorder means that whenever I am in mania, I am so much more productive in every area of my life, which includes my writing. Although it feels amazing at the time, after every high, there’s a terrible low. The lows are hard to live through.

What are you working on now?

I’m doing a final re-reading of my debut novel, Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, as the publishers, Caffeine Nights, will begin working on it mid-December. After that, I have the Soul Destruction Diary to continue, which is currently available to read on my blog: www.soul-destruction.com. I also have the second book in the Soul Destruction series to complete.

Now we’ve got to know you a little better share something with us that nobody else knows about Ruth…

There is nothing about me that nobody knows already. Actually, something new is that I’m developing a regular desire for chocolate spread sandwiches. No one knows that yet. I’ve only just realised it myself.

Who would you like to share a cup of coffee and a natter with?

Immediately, my grandmothers and my favourite great auntie came into mind, but I’ll need to wait until I get to heaven, if there is one.

How do you relax?

I used to watch TV but for the last few months or longer, I’ve rarely had the TV on. One of my friends calls it “electric diazepam” and I think it can work like that sometimes, so I’ve turned it on more recently since she reminded me it had that effect.

If you won the lottery what would you spend it on?

I’d start a charity that operated a centre where women who want to exit prostitution can get holistic help that will enable them to gain a new life, a new job, provide trauma and other specialist therapies such as eye-movement therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder, treatment for getting clean off drugs and/or alcohol if addiction is an issue for them, legal help in getting their children back if they’ve lost them to the care system, assistance and support for housing issues, debt management advice and guidance, further education and training (or access to it), and more that I can’t think of right now and also on which I’d want to consult with experts in the field. I’d like the centre to be able to provide onsite, or at least provide access to, services for absolutely every need the women have. I’d also buy myself a new car, and pay off my mortgage, and take the family on holiday. I’d have to give some of the money to my sister but her share might come with a caveat that she only receives it if she works in my charity centre. She’s an English teacher, and a brilliant one, teaching foreign students many of whom are asylum seekers here in the UK. So I’d want her with me, but maybe that’s rather manipulative of me.

Are you a savoury or sweets girl?

Sweets every time.

Mmm…  just like me! :-)

What do you have in your handbag right now?

Thank goodness I am using a small bag currently as it might take more than a page if I was using one of my larger handbags. There’s tobacco, Rizla paper and cigarette filters because I’m a smoker of liquorice roll ups. Lots of scraps of paper and receipts. A few broken lighters that I must get round to binning. My keys – I always keep them in there, otherwise I leave them around the house and they’re lost due to my bad memory. Too many lip-glosses, and ladies’ things I’d rather not mention.

What’s your earliest memory? 

Sometime when I was still being fed by my mum and couldn’t yet talk. I think I was talking at about a year old, so I was very young. She was feeding me baby food and I knew she was putting the savoury food on the spoon then dipping it into the desert to hide the savoury food. I must have eaten it thinking it was the only way to get desert. She did it because apparently, I wouldn’t eat savoury food.

What has been your favourite year and why?

2002, which is the year my twin sons were born.

What’s your favourite smell?

Agent Provocateur perfume with the exception of nighttime during which I prefer lavender.

What was the last thing you laughed at?

I laughed at myself this afternoon as I was outside talking to my dog, and realised how much I talk to him.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

I was recently told something I hope will become a mantra to me: Some things belong in hell and it’s best to leave them there.

What’s your favourite film as a child and an adult?

As a very young child, my favourite film was Grease, then as a teenager it was The Wall. As an adult, it’s so hard to call as my memory has worsened over the years I find it hard to remember what films I’ve actually seen. In fact, I can watch a film and perhaps it won’t even be until near the end when I will suddenly remember that I’ve seen the film before and some of the scenes fall into place in my mind. I think in recent years, one film that has had a big impact on me is Hard Candy.

Who was the most famous person you have worked with and what were they really like?

Noel Edmonds who read out my letter on Swap Shop in the 1980s in which I had written about a huge hole running through a loaf of bread that was made by the brand with the logo  “Bread wi’ nowt taken out”. I wasn’t impressed as he said my surname wrong on TV and ruined my fifteen minutes (or seconds) of fame.

Beyond the Streets charity means a lot to you doesn’t it Ruth? I see you have donated all royalties from one of your books, tell me more.

In Her Own Words… Interview with a London Call Girl’ is available to download from Amazon and you’re right all royalties will be donated to Beyond the Streets, a charity helping women exit prostitution. The publication is 77p from Amazon UK here & 99c from Amazon US here. It is also available worldwide.

 Thank you so very much for talking to me today. I hope we will meet up real soon and get to know each other even better!

Good Luck with ‘Unforgivable’. We’ll all definately look out for it!

Ta ra for now!

Carol :-)

 

The Future of Policing

 

THE FUTURE OF POLICING

I have a positive outlook on most challenges in life, however at present I struggling to comprehend the continued dilution of our Police service.

During the past 20 years the emphasis in policing has been about performance and its monitoring, cutting costs whenever and wherever. This major focus remains a number one priority, crime and public order are simply distractions from the paperwork attributed to this.

We need to remember that officers have died in the line of duty, shot, stabbed, beaten to death or killed by vehicles. Gun crime has trebled and officer’s numbers are at their lowest for a decade facing like many other groups pay freezes and increased pension contributions. Yet we hear comments such as ‘We must ask Police Officers to do more for less.’

We are talking about devoted servants of the Crown, who put their lives at risk on a daily basis protecting others what more could be asked of these men and women?

The flesh has been removed and the service is a mere skeleton of what it used to be and as for the heart, dare I suggest it has been well and truly ripped out! A duty of care under health and safety? Or is it too late with one foot already in the grave.

It seems like a bleak horizon for the world renowned and respected law enforcers-

Political Commissioners—Lucrative deals for some to ensure compliance? And the Home Secretary appoints a ‘Police Watchdog’ with no experience of the ‘real’ world of policing. Perhaps confirming why she gets the ‘vote of no confidence’.

Policing in this Country continues to be diluted beyond belief and in the future no doubt a ‘time team’ will be employed to discover whatever happened to the thin blue line.

But what will replace the ‘British bobby’ one asks? Profit making privatisation, offering VFM? Street walkers or vigilantes driven by cost alone? I dread to think who the sleeping partners would be in these industries or who as a hand in ensuring fair distribution of the relevant lucrative contracts.

One industry that is booming in a time of world recession is the Government ‘Lip Service’ who like those before them are NOT listening to the people. What this Country needs is to absolutely support its Emergency Services-a duty of care to its population.

I finish on a positive note. I am proud to have had a distinguished career as a Police officer, having spent thirty years policing the community with loyal and devoted service. (Will this also be a thing of the past?)

Whilst I continue to write crime fiction. The Government needs to embrace reality! A new Home Secretary perhaps one that cares for the Public and the Queens peace.

Bob