Wait, Who Am I Here?

Reading & Writing


This year you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d gone into hyperdrive with my writing – a new Bryant & May novel (the longest yet), a new collection of short stories (‘Frightening’), a non-fiction book, ‘The Book of Forgotten Authors’ – and a psychological thriller.

Wait, you didn’t know about that last one? It turns out you didn’t know for a very good reason. Let me start at the beginning.

I’ve always had a problem; I can pretty much turn my hand to any form of writing. When I was you get I was employed as a literary mimic, writing for many different performers including Morecambe & Wise, several of the Pythons and comic actors like Leslie Nielsen.

This is not as good as it sounds. It took me a long time to find my identity as a novelist because on the page, I didn’t have one. I started with comedy, writing for the BBC, then humour books, horror stories, a quasi-SF novel, a supernatural thriller, a weird romance, anything that took my fancy – and much, much later, a crime series.

Although I absolutely love writing the Bryant & May books, part of me always wants to do something else, so I continue with independent novels and collections, some of which sell well, some not at all. These sale are down to the vagaries of distribution more than readers choosing subject matter, so that the three books for which I had my best critics’ reviews are paradoxically the three books that sold worst of all.

With the arrival of e-books a new reading pattern has emerged. Readers will take a chance on a low-cost e-novel and dump it if it’s boring, or buy it in print to keep if they enjoy it. And because of this new purchasing pattern, it’s possible to find whole rafts of new readers. So forward-thinking publishers are trying authors out in e-formats prior to moving them to print.

I’ve agreed to become part of this new system for one book (at first; if it works there will be others) so new readers can try me for a low outlay. But we decided not to use my existing name. Not that I’m big enough to be called a brand, you understand, but because it’s crucial not to confuse people. I get readers who say they love ‘Plastic’ and didn’t know I wrote mystery novels, and vice versa – so the idea is to go out there with something fresh and test the waters.

Which creates a problem of its own. How do the people who like my work (yes, both of you) find this new book?

It’ll be out later in the summer, and you’ll have to trust me on this – I’ll make sure you can find it. Quite how I’ll do that is something I haven’t cracked yet, butI have a team behind me and rest assured we’ll be working on it!

PS A bonus point to anyone who gets the movie quote in the headline.

15 comments on “Wait, Who Am I Here?”

  1. Martin Gore says:

    Isn’t that from The Stepfather? The original one from the 80s. Great movie.

  2. Brian Evans says:

    I’m looking forward to the book on forgotten authors. I have often wondered why so many once prolific and hugely popular authors are so quickly forgotten. There are a few exceptions-Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse spring to mind- but what happened to the rosta of authors who were around when a was a child and started to read? Denis Wheatley is an example, but understandable, as his books now are awfully dated. But what about Monica Dickens, Alastair Maclean, Paul Gallico and Nevil Shute to mention but a few?

  3. Helen Martin says:

    Alastair Maclean, Paul Gallico and Nevil Shute are all still around (v. earlier posts above). They were on the parents’ bookshelves may be one reason they disappear sort of. Who wants to read their parents’ literature?

  4. Helen Martin says:

    (Had to stop and show the husband Oslo harbour. The seagulls are apparaently mandatory to indicate the location is a harbour.) We then have to rely on people like Admin to reintroduce us to good writers of the past. (Admin is another persona Chris uses, by the way. Admin’s comments are sometimes quite different from Chris’.)

  5. Vivienne says:

    I love forgotten authors. Libraries used to have them, but now it’s just classics or best sellers.

    Intriguing to know how we will identify the new e-book. I am not at all up to date on all of Admin’s output, ( there’s a lot out there) so maybe there would be references I wouldn’t get. Just as Admin produces various genres of work, so do we readers read a wide range too. Why publishers don’t understand this, I don’t know.

  6. Steveb says:

    This is my Friday persona speaking. It differs from my Saturday persona in being one day younger or sixdays older, depending on the season.
    Yes I think it was the Stepfather. Martin Gore, not the…
    A psychological thriller, not with an unreliable female narrator surely 😉
    Alastair Maclean, I remember the story about Puppet on a Chain where his editor said, you’ve got one girl too many at the end, so he replied, OK kill one of them off then. So his editor did the rewrite, Maclean said, ‘You killed the wrong one off, but never mind.’
    Nevil Shute was a more serious author and I think his work is remembered even if people couldnt name him.
    Hammond Innes is another forgotten thriller writer

  7. Steveb says:

    Ps Eg on the beach, town like alice, no highway

  8. Steveb says:

    Pps The most undeservedly forgotten thriller writer is undoubtedly Eric Ambler. His cool prose is the definition of readable, his descriptions of killers and what we would today call sociopaths exact, and his descriptions of europe informed and fascinating. Anything of his is worth reading but I would recommend Cause for Alarm, Judgement on Deltchev, Mask of Dimitrios.

  9. Chris Webb says:

    Maybe your publisher’s solicitor will tell his wife’s friend your nom de plume who will then tweet it at 1 o’clock in the morning.

  10. admin says:

    You’ll be pleased to know that nearly all of the above authors feature in the book (or did – I had to cut it down as the first draft was insanely over length!)

  11. Wayne#1 says:

    If you want to reach us your blog collects our email address before we can post so that might be the easiest way to let us know how to find your eBook written under your other name.

    Looking forward to all your new and exciting writing, its the differences and switching between styles that I find interesting.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Wouldn’t it be interesting to discover that Christopher Fowler is actually a creation of someone else (a famous footballer, for example) and we have really only been talking to a mask all this time.
    Mask of Dimitrios was made into a movie – which I haven’t seen, so don’t know if it is either good or true to the book or not. I think I read the book a long time ago but don’t remember anything about it.

  13. Vivienne says:

    Eric Ambler – I would definitely recommend The Levanter.

  14. John Howard says:

    Anybody remember Adam Hall? Another in the genre of Alistair McLean. How about Anthony Price. I always thought he was on a par with Len Deighton with the two of them just below LeCarre.
    As for the psychological thriller… Bring it on. Please. I thought Wayne#1’s idea of informing the chattering classes of the new identity is a good one.

  15. Jim D says:

    I’m thrilled to see that the new Forgotten Authors book is to be available in hardcover. Is there a lot of carryover from the first volume?

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