Sunday, 31 August 2014


It's all official and live online! It Never Was Worthwhile has just appeared on the publisher's website at It's available on Amazon on the link below.

Now I need to get serious about this writing stuff...

Saturday, 23 August 2014

It Never Was Worthwhile

The WW1 anthology from Malcolm Havard and me now has a title and a cover! We've settled on It Never Was Worthwhile, and it's due to be released on the world around the end of August. Initially it'll be available only as a Kindle download and in its release form will be around 120 pages. Our plan is to add additional stories between now and November - early buyers who set their Kindle to auto-update will receive the new stories at no charge.

The completed work will be something over double this size and will be available in printed form from Penkhull Press.

Both Malcolm and I are excited about this project, and it's been a real pleasure to work with him on creating something that we both feel is rather special.

Lies Told in Silence

I came across a great blog today from Mary Tod, a writer of historical fiction with whom I wasn't previously familiar. You can find it here. She's recently released a novel, Lies Told in Silence, which I discovered while wandering the interweb in search of background information on laundry techniques in the early 20th century - writing historical fiction can make your search history somewhat unique.

Take a look at her blog, it's an example of what an author's blog should be: well-written, wide ranging and appreciative of the work of others. I've also downloaded her book from Amazon, having been hooked by the first few pages. I'll let you know if the initial promise is fulfilled - somehow I feel it will be.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Historic Racism

A piece I'd written for It Never Was Worthwhile was challenged last week at a Renegade Writers meeting. There's nothing unusual about having your writing criticised by the Renegades - they're a pretty forthright bunch - but on this occasion the challenge was one of racism, which gave me pause.
Let me put it in context. The piece in question is written in the first person from the perspective of a deep south white boy. The year is 1918 and he and his buddies are posing for a photograph and 'we all grinned like a minstrel show.'
And there's the problem. That the minstrel shows were a dire manifestation of prejudice and racial stereotypes is undeniable. But when we're writing historical fiction, is our duty to be authentic or to be politically correct? A spirited discussion followed during which, as you'd expect, no conclusions or concord were reached. But all of us came away thinking.
I should declare my position before stating my argument: I abhor racism as one of humanity's vilest and most unjustifiable perversions. And I dislike political correctness almost as much, and for very similar reasons. I forget the correct numbers, but I read recently that black youths are something like 60% more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white. Yet they're around 25% as likely to be carrying anything offensive or illicit. That's the racism that we have to deal with, not whether it's OK to say 'blackboard'.
But back to the case in point. The short story I'd just read out referred to Yanks and Limeys. This met with no objection, in fact it was suggested that I should change 'Germans' to 'Krauts'. What would the reaction have been had I stayed with my original version of the line: 'we all grinned like niggers'? I self-censored that line because I felt it was moving beyond simple decency, but in so doing I replaced a word that black people use in friendship with an overtly racist institution that was only finally removed from our televisions in the 1970s.
Political correctness is taking us towards racism here, not away from it. If pejorative terms for caucasian races are acceptable then why not for Afro-Americans? And if we rule that all races must be treated equally then where's the authenticity in my text? Writing about the Great War without mentioning 'Hun', 'Boche', 'Jerry' or 'Kraut' is going to be a difficult and ultimately unconvincing process. Had I been writing in the third person in the present day then 'grinning like a minstrel show' would be unjustifiable. But when we write direct speech or narrate in the first person we must be true to the time, circumstances and background of the speaker.
Of course, I could be wrong, unthinkable though that may be. My principal challenger on Wednesday is as repulsed by racism as I am, so our difference is purely in the expression of our abhorence. What you have here is only my opinion - and I've never been accused of keeping my opinions to myself.