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Nov 10

BOOKS: A long and winding road

Posted on Saturday, November 10, 2018 in Books

I was 14 years old when I read my first work of grown-up fiction (Leslie Thomas’ The Virgin Soldiers) and decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. It only took 50 years to achieve that ambition of writing (hopefully) entertaining novels, although I’ve written a stack of other books in between.

At time of writing (July 2023) I have written 18 books and had 17 of them published, with Mole Creek, due out on August 1, on Echo Books

Prior to that, in 2018, Affirm Press published Tunnel Vision, the second of my Danny Clay trilogy  – hey, I can dream! By the way, I write all this not to boast, but to encourage other writers to keep going, even when the odds seem stacked against them.

Writing Tunnel Vision was interesting because the previous novel, Perfect Criminals, had taken about three years to write, on and off (mostly off). It had begun as an idea which I then used for the 20,000 word submission that got me my MA (Writing).

Having written 25 per cent of the number of words required for an average commercial novel, I decided to keep going but when it was finished, the search for a publisher was so frustrating that I briefly had it up on Amazon as a “Publish on Demand” and ebook publication.

However, just when I was ready to give up, Affirm Press came along and I had a two-book deal for not very much money. But I had a deal.

More importantly, I had a strong idea for where I wanted to take these characters and I knew how to pace the book so I wouldn’t have to cut 13,000 words out, as I did with the first one.

Having decided to set it in Saigon, I realised that, although I know the city pretty well, I needed to spend some time there being neither a tourist nor a tour guide – both of which I have done a lot.

So I spent two weeks just scuffing around Saigon, doing the occasional tourist trips – like street food tours on the back of motorbikes – while visiting parts of the city that Westerners are advised to avoid.

All the time, I was writing and as a result, Tunnel Vision took only three or four months to finish and it benefited greatly from that sense of immediacy and urgency (I think). Anyway, it’s a better book and I hope you get the chance to read and enjoy it.  Click here if you want to buy it online from Abbey’s Books.

Its predecessor, Perfect Criminals, is a crazy romp through television and crime by my hero Danny Clay, a former army engineer turned scriptwriter.  I tell people both books are written in the style of Carl Hiaasen. I know, I should be half as talented.

Anyway, it was something I didn’t even realise I was doing until I rewarded myself for finishing the book by reading his latest novel. Aha!  So that’s what I was trying to do.

A reviewer in the Sydney Morning Herald said Perfect Criminals was “punchily written, packed with hard-boiled humour [and] a ride into the underbelly of the entertainment industry.” Another review in the Melbourne Herald-Sun said “an action-packed and hilarious crime caper, navigating its way through the dark side of the entertainment industry here and abroad.”

You can judge for yourself by buying a print copy (if you can still find one) or ebook here in Australia  or on Amazon elsewhere.

My previously published books include two sporting biographies, two books about sappers (Army engineers) in Vietnam, one about sappers in Afghanistan, one memoir about my co-writer Sandy MacGregor (who introduced me to the sapper stories),  and one true crime book which turned out to be too true for someone’s comfort.

There are also two illustrated children’s books, a book about apartment living and another about buying and selling real estate, and two self-help/inspirational books that I wrote for my former agent (and from which I have been edging away for years, on the grounds that I am the least qualified person I know to give anyone life advice).

The 17th book – the unpublishable rather than unpublished one – was my first attempt at a novel about 25 years ago.  I gave up after my first rejection slip. I am a bit more tenacious these days.

The new book, Mole Creek, had a much longer gestation than the other books and started life as a sprawling political novel set in the USA. It was only when I realised that the “McGuffin”, the device that motivated the plot, was actually what the book was all about, and I cut it back by about 50 percent and relocated it to Tasmania, that I got it published.

You can find out more about all previously published books by going to this page and clicking on the links.