March 08, 2015

Re-reading Chandler

Some years after reading Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely, I thought it was about time I read his other most famous novel, The Long Goodbye. I had fond memories of the ‘reworking’ of the story in Robert Altman's 1973 film starring Elliott Gould and wondered how Chandler’s style would stack up against some of the modern crime writers I’d been reading in the last few years.
The Long Goodbye shows Philip Marlowe becoming involved in what appears to be two separate cases but which wind up being connected. The first is his growing friendship with Terry Lennox, who turns out, it seems, to be the murderer of his rich socialite wife. After the friendship ends with Marlowe driving Lennox to Mexico to escape a possible charge of murder, the second storyline picks up: Marlowe is hired by Eileen Wade, the wife of famous novelist Roger Wade, to find her husband, who is a drunk and has either gone off on a bender or is drying out somewhere in a sanatorium. These two plot-lines converge in more violence in which Marlowe is implicated but doesn’t participate.

November 20, 2014

Shameless promotion ...

As an inducement to sign up to my Keith Dixon's Novels website, I've added a freebie. If you sign up now, you'll be able to download a free copy of the book I put together of the earlier posts on this blog.

It's actually been one of my best-sellers and has often hovered near the top of the charts for "Writing Skills" on Amazon. Here's a review:

"Excellent. Insightful, entertaining and inspiring. I thoroughly recommend this book to all aspiring authors, regardless of genre."

It's currently retailing at $0.99 or £0.99, but you can have it for free. When you subscribe you won't be bothered too much with messages from me, but you'll get advance notice of new books coming down the pike and the occasional other piece of news.

October 31, 2014

A short-term deal for The Strange Girl

Just a quick advisory note: The Strange Girl is on a short-term discount for the 31st October and 1st November, $0.99 or £0.99.

Here's an interesting fact: my last book, The Bleak, is a thriller, part of which is based on the fact that Russia continued exploring the use of chemical and biological weapons even after they, like the US and Britain, signed a pact banning them in 1972. My book uses their failure to act on the ban to explain the chief villain's actions towards the end of the book.

Well, I've just been reading in a history of the British Secret Service that it was believed that during the Cold War, the Russians had buried caches of Ebola, anthrax and psychotropic drugs at various places around the UK, near to reservoirs and our own biological weapons development facility at Porton Down. In case they wanted to attack us.

Whatever you make up, Real Life always trumps you!

October 13, 2014

Triumphant triumvirate - Lehane, Atkins, Sandford.

I've recently read three crime novels that remind me - if I needed it - why crime writing is such a vigorous genre.

First I read Dennis Lehane's The Drop, which is a novel based on an earlier short story and which has been made into a film starring Tom Hardy and the great James Gandolfini. Effectively, it's the old story about the worm turning - someone who is put-upon finally deciding that enough is enough and finding the strength to assert themselves. The difference here is that the hero, although quiet and unassuming, was once part of a gang that exercised a violent rule over a part of Boston.

September 25, 2014

The Strange Girl

Just a note to say that The Strange Girl will be published tomorrow, 26th September, on more formats than you can care to count.

I'll put just a few here ...


Barnes & Noble (to follow)

And in paperback here in the US

                              here in the UK

September 17, 2014

Ace aces it - The Ranger hits a sweet spot.

I try to keep a handle on new American writers because I'm always on the lookout for people to learn from.

Ace Atkins surprises me - not because he's good, which he is - but because he's written half a dozen or more books and I hadn't stumbled across him or his work until a few weeks ago.

The Ranger is the first book in the 'Quinn Colson' series. Colson is a Ranger - a high-class Special Forces soldier - who returns at the beginning of the book from seeing action in Afghanistan. You get a sense of the man in the opening paragraph:
Quinn headed home, south on the Mississippi highway, in a truck he’d bought in Phenix City, Alabama, for fifteen hundred, a U.S. Army rucksack beside him stuffed with enough clothes for the week and a sweet Colt .44 Anaconda he’d won in a poker game. He carried good rock ’n’ roll and classic country, and photos from his last deployment in Afghanistan, pics of him with his Ranger platoon, the camp monkey “Streak” on his shoulder, Black Hawks at sundown over the mountains. 

Look at the detail in that - Mississippi highway, second-hand truck, 1500 dollars, US Army rucksack, Colt .44 Anaconda, poker game ... concluding with his last deployment in Afghanistan and the Black Hawks in the background. That opening paragraph does so much work in just three sentences, giving us some backstory, some of his personality and even some of his skills ('his Ranger platoon'). We don't get five paragraphs of detailed explanation of who he is, where he's come from and what he can do. We get three packed sentences.

September 07, 2014

Hold the press ...

Just a couple of items of news before my next critique post, which will be on Ace Atkins' book The Ranger. He's a new writer to me but he's written quite a lot and has encomia on his book covers from people like Elmore Leonard and John Sandford, so they obviously recognise his worth. He's also written a couple of books taking on Robert B. Parker's Spenser franchise, which I'll also have to catch up on.

First, a note to say that the next book in the Sam Dyke Investigations series will be published on 26th September. It's going through its final edit now and will be available for pre-order from 16th September. Here's the final version of the cover:

Secondly, the translation of Actress into Chinese is coming on apace. I'm receiving queries now about Chapter 17, and as there are 26 Chapters in the book, that means the translation is about two thirds finished. The promised completion date was by Christmas, so they're well on target. There's been a slight delay with the translation into Spanish because the translator has moved house. Hopefully it won't be deferred too long.

Finally, I'm looking forward to seeing the new movie version of Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder film, A Walk Amongst the Tombstones, starring Liam Neeson. It'll be interesting to see how they translate Block's easy style into a wham-bang Hollywood movie, and Matt Scudder's reasonably passive modus operandi into an all-action hero. I hope it's not a disappointment!

August 20, 2014

Actress free downloads

Just a quick note to thank anyone who downloaded for free my contemporary novel, Actress, during the last week. In total there were 4613 downloads of the book between 15th - 19th August, which is one of the more successful freebie promotions I've done. Getting the promotion on Pixel of Ink had a good deal to do with that, as it contributed to 2296 downloads on the day the book was promoted on that site.

Now to see whether this has any knock-on effects on sales of other books, which is the point of it all. If you're interested, the book is now available for £1.49 from Amazon UK, $2.99 from Amazon US, and Euros 2.60 in Europe. 


The Strange Girl, which is the next book in my Sam Dyke Investigations series is now entering its final phase of writing. There's about a third of the book left to complete. I think it should be ready, rewritten and proofread in about a month. There, I've not really put any pressure on myself at all ... 

August 07, 2014

German mysteries

The Dark Meadow is by a writer new to me, Andrea Maria Schenkel. She comes trailing plaudits as the first writer to win Germany's Crime Prize two years running and with her books translated into over twenty languages.

Schenkel seems to have developed a much-admired style that is minimalist and bleak, unfolding her stories in short chapters, each from the perspective of a different character, including the victim. The Dark Meadow, in a nicely-produced edition from Quercus, tells the grim story of a young single mother who returns to her family home having failed to find a life for herself beyond the village limits. It's 1947 and life is hard for a young woman with a child and living with parents who struggle to feed themselves, never mind another two mouths. The tale revolves around what happens to her, her parents and the various subsidiary characters who are witness to, or involved in, the murder itself.

August 05, 2014

Eee, book covers!

I've had a lot of fun lately designing book covers, both for myself and for others. The latest was for my good friend Jochem Vandersteen's latest hard-boiled book, the first in his Vance Custer series and soon to be published. Here's a preview of the cover:

August 03, 2014

The mastery of James Lee Burke

I've said many times before that James Lee Burke is probably the finest writer working in America today. His latest book, Wayfaring Stranger, is not going to dissuade me from that opinion.

Burke has had two strands to his fictional world - one of them involves the one-time police officer and private detective, Dave Robicheaux, who has featured in the majority of his novels over the last 30 or so years. The other strand plays with the fictional Holland family - apparently a meditation on Burke's own family, the Hollans. He has gone backwards and forwards in time with this family, and in Wayfaring Stranger we alight just before, during and after the Second World War.

Wendel Holland lives with his slightly detached mother and his grandfather (the hero of an earlier Burke novel), and at some point in the early 1930s has a run-in with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, a meeting which colours and illuminates his adult years.

July 31, 2014

5 Signs Crime Fiction is Still Evolving - A Guest Post by Rebecca Gray

Today I'm pleased to publish a guest post by Rebecca Gray, who writes about real crime at Her comments on the impact of technology and new media have certainly made me think about my own practice as a writer in the modern world. Please add any comments you wish or write to Rebecca directly at the email address below.

image courtesy ponsaluk

5 Signs Crime Fiction is Still Evolving

Rebecca Gray

Crime fiction as a genre dates back to the 19th century, when Poe chilled readers with "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and Conan Doyle gave birth to the archetypal detective in Sherlock Holmes. You can still cast new writing in that classic mold, but today's crime fiction continues to expand its reach, merging with different fields like science fiction and fantasy or exploiting the possibilities of new media.

Changes in modern culture and technology are driving these changes in crime fiction. The plots of old classics in detection like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and The Red House Mystery depend on the lack of formal methods for processing a crime scene we now use routinely, so in order to produce similar novels today, a writer would have to craft a story deliberately excluding modern techniques and solutions.