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  1. Here's my Review for John Updike's last work of fiction, "Terrorist"



    Ahmad is a mixed up American teenager. He dreams idealistic dreams of his absent and handsome Yemeni father, while taking his Irish heritage mother for granted. She works hard in the hospital but dreams of realising her ambitions through painting, as she works her way through a stream of unsuitable lovers, men that Ahmad does not approve of, just as young men in such circumstances often do, or don’t.

       Ahmad laughs at his mother’s Catholic religion, what’s that all about? All that shrieking singing and crazy pictures? Preferring as he does, to follow his father’s Muslim calling, something that vaguely amuses his mother, as Ahmad spends more and more time at the mosque, learning long scriptures by heart, perfecting his Arabic, one-to-one, with a zealous and impressed Imam.

       Meanwhile, back at school Ahmad attracts the attention of teacher and career advisor Jack the Jew, an older man who’s pressing Ahmad to go on to college, to achieve great things, - you can do it boy, he says, but Ahmad has already set his heart on becoming a truck driver.

       ‘You could do so much better for yourself,’ insists Jack, turning to his mother, showing interest in her too, despite the twin facts that he’s married and twenty years older than Ahmad’s Ma.

       ‘Trucks are for me,’ insists Ahmad, ‘and the pay’s good too!’

       So begins John Updike’s book “Terrorist”, a novel that seems to have divided critics and readers alike and I can see why. He doesn’t hold back in taking a pop at various sections of society, the obese for a start, and who can deny that America has a big problem with that, and America is not alone either.

       In places it came across as a book from a man who was coming toward the end of his life and was disappointed at how things had turned out. In places he appeared to be losing touch with modern technology too, an easy thing to do when you get older, maybe yearning for the simpler life of pen and ink and landline telephones and damn all else, worried that if you take your eyes off the rolling ball of latest hi-tech developments for a couple of weeks you fall off the tech wagon forever, never to remount.

       I have seen Mister Updike described as America’s greatest modern writer and I have no idea if that is true as I have yet to sample the other 95% of them, but he is a great writer, and I use the present tense knowing full well that he passed away in January 2009, for great writers’ works remain with us forever, here and now, and his books will surely be read for generations to come.

       Critics have attacked this book for being filled with stereotypical characters, and to some extent that may be true, but I don’t see a great problem with that, lots of people out there are precisely that, typical, and Ahmad certainly isn’t like anyone I know, or have ever met.

       The book is filled with overlong sentences and do you know something, I quite liked that, it kind of hooked me and kept me reading, just as the book did itself. It kept me awake too when I should have been sleeping. (One up for the writer!) I kind of guessed the ending long before I arrived there, yet I didn’t quite do so, and I couldn’t put the book down, so keen was I to find out precisely how things really turned out.

       During his life Mister Updike wrote and had published more than seventy books, a mammoth achievement in anyone’s language, and I am sure there are far better ones of his out there than “Terrorist” – his last fictional work, but I really enjoyed it, and I am certain it will stay with me long after I set it down, and in the end I guess that’s what all writers are truly aiming for, because it doesn’t happen that often.

       And here's the man himself talking about advice for young and aspiring writers:








    Mad Frank’s Diary by Frankie Fraser with James Morton.

    - A Chronicle of the Life of Britain's most notorious villain


    I have to say this was not the easiest book to review. Why was that? Well, it is not so much written, as comes across as if someone gave the subject a tape-recorder, one Frankie Fraser in this case, and said: Tell us all your memoirs, all your adventures and knowledge about the crime scene, and most especially the London crime scene, and we’ll knock it up into a decent book, and because we all know that the general public are fascinated by gangsters and crime and murder mysteries in all their guises, we’ll sell loads and all make a pot of money out of it.

       If that’s true, and Frankie has indeed made some decent cash out of it, well, good on him, because for most of his life, as I am sure he would be the first to admit, he has got by, and got his family through, with income that has more often than not been made outside the law.

       And the book is not strictly a diary either as you might expect, just a whole load of random events, some of which Frankie was personally involved in, and some not, and they are simply listed in dated chronological order, days and months, but the year is ignored, so it could be 1939 or 1999, so there’s no real order of the events as they happened.

       That said, it’s quite a fascinating book, and indeed Mr Fraser comes across as an very interesting man. His grandmother, if we are to believe, was a full blood native Canadian Indian, and when you come to glance at his picture you can certainly see the resemblance in that.

       I have to confess that I wasn’t sure if Frankie Fraser was still alive or had passed over to the great prison in the sky, but sure enough, according to my internet research he is still with us, aged 90, at the time of writing, and living in sheltered accommodation in Peckham, London.

       And guess what? You might be surprised to learn that in 2013 aged 89, he was issued with an ASBO, an Anti Social Behavioural Order, by the police after a dispute with another resident, or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised to hear that at all.

       One of the things that came through from the book was his ongoing dispute with the Carter family or Carter gang, and I just want to say that whoever they are, they are absolutely no relation of yours truly!

       Frankie Fraser served no less than forty-two years of his long life in borstal and prisons, and that is far too long for anyone, and we can all but hope that he enjoys a long, happy, and contented retirement. In later life he has become something of a cause celebre, with famous friends, and books aplenty, and tours and shows and even being invited to address University debating societies and the like. He seems to have enjoyed all that immensely, and why not?

       If you have any interest in crime in general, and the London crime scene in particular, I am sure you will find enough stuff in this to keep you hooked. It’s a book you can dip into as often or as infrequently as you wish, as there is no continuity in it at all because of the way it is set up, so in effect they are numerous short stories, so if you like shorts then you will like this.

       And it’s written, much as I guess it was dictated, in Cockney, and maybe that brings more immediacy and authenticity to it. For the uninitiated, there will be a few puzzling sentences in there, that’s for sure. But in the end I enjoyed the book, it was easy to read, and I enjoyed trying hard to understand the man and his life, though I am not sure that I ever managed to do exactly that.

    Here's one of the last interviews with the now late Frankie Fraser, who died at the age of 90.



  3. World War One Remembered.


    World War One Broke out one hundred years ago today.

    Both of my granddads fought on the western front, and survived to tell the tale, here they are.

    Firstly, Granddad Carter in his WWI army uniform who was gassed, and for good measure was shot in the hip and severely injured.

    Granddad Carter



    The injury didn't seem to affect him too much, as he went on to father ten children, or I wouldn't be here! I remember him as a wizened old man sitting in an ancient three wheeled cane wheelchair, barking out orders to all his subjects - children and grandchildren. He sure as heck frightened the hell out of me! I never saw him walk. I don't think he could.

    The family business was haulage and transport, as the name might suggest, "Carter", based in New Milton, Hampshire, or Old Milton to be more precise, and all the work was done by horse and cart.

    At the outbreak of war, all the horses were commandered by the government and sent to France, so the family story goes, and ample compensation was promised.

    Seems like nothing was ever forthcoming - and I guess that is no surprise, knowing what governments can be like!


    Granddad Adshead, my mum's dad, also fought on the western front, and though I have a picture of him in his army uniform somewhere, I can't locate it. He switched to the merchant marine after the war and spent all his career with Elders and Fyffes on the Atlantic run, including on convoys throughout World War II.

    Here he is in the 1950s, possibly in New York, in his Chief Engineer's uniform.

    Granddad Adshead


    He had three sons, Eric, Colin, and Phillip Adshead all of whom served their time at Cammell Laird Shipbuilders in Birkenhead, and all of whom went into the merchant marine, and one daughter, my mother, Hazel, who joined the WRENS in the last year and a half of World War II.

    They lived at number 11 Eastway in Greasby on the Wirral, where a bomb fell in the road during the blitz, fortunately for our family, further down the street. Granddad Adshead could certainly tell a story, and we kids quizzed him at every opportunity, especially about the time his ship was hit on the Atlantic crossing when a German bomb went right down the funnel, but failed to explode.

    So this blogpost is a little thankyou to granddads everywhere, or indeed a VERY BIG THANKYOU, and to everyone else who fought in both of those terrible conflicts.

    You might think from those two dreadful wars that we human beings might have learned our lessons, but nothing could be further from the truth, what with today's fighting in Israel and Gaza, in Ukraine, Afghanistan and Libya, among others. Wake up, fellow earthlings, before it is too late!


    David Carter.





    Chris Hammond is a conservative kind of guy with a small “c”. He’s an accountant and still likes to go to work in the tried and tested approved uniform, suit, shirt and tie, and now he looks and feels somewhat out of place, working as he does in a hi-tech company where people work strange hours and wear what the heck they like.

    He’s working long hours too and neglecting his pretty wife, Jennifer, who some say he married on the rebound after she broke up with Chris’s brother, Pete. Jenny’s spending lots of time with her girlfriends, or so Chris thinks, when in reality, she’s in the middle of a steamy affair.

    Meanwhile, Chris has found gaping holes in the finances of the hi-tech company, big unjustified payments going out, and he urgently needs to speak to the ultra modern cavalier of a boss as a matter of urgency.

    Chris comes home late; Jenny’s out again, and soon after that a stranger comes to the door, is invited in, and not long later shoots Chris Hammond dead. Peter, on hearing of his brother’s horrific murder returns to England from Rome for the funeral, and begins looking into the puzzling circumstances surrounding his brother’s death.

    So begins Bill Ward’s interesting novel “Encryption”. This is a modern book tackling modern issues of Internet security in the wake of the whole Edward Snowden affair, and it rattles along at a great pace with many layers of plot and story slowly being revealed.

    If you enjoy fast paced thrillers against a background of hi-tech business and intrigue you will definitely like this. I certainly did.    

  5. Turned down book from Eimear McBride

    comes up trumps.


    Here’s a tale that will gladden the heart of all struggling writers everywhere, and indeed small publishers too.

    Eimear McBride wrote a book called “A Girl is a Half Formed Thing” and sent it off to nine publishers and, guess what, it was turned down every single time.

    Then a small independent publisher from Norwich, Galley Beggar Press, took on the book and published it. Sales were small but steady, but when the book recently won the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction suddenly the book began selling in the thousands!

    And guess what, Galley Beggar Press began receiving manuscripts in the thousands too!

    So it just goes to show, the big publishers don’t always get it right, they don’t always spot the successful books from their piles of manuscripts, and it gives hope and encouragement to the thousands of writers out there who dream of emulating Eimear’s success.

    Keep at it! has to be the mantra, and who knows, good things do happen, sometimes.

    Big congrats to Eimear, and to the publishers too who had the bottle and forethought to give it a go in the first place.

    Well done to all concerned!   

  6. War Time Photographs of Birkenhead School


    I didn’t attend Birkenhead School, but I have spent more than half of my life on the Wirral and I did live close by the school for sometime, and I did knock about with some of the boys from there – play footie, drink cider in the woods and the graveyard, chase the girls, that kind of thing.


    Why do I mention this? Well, I have a couple of pre-war and during-the-war Birkenhead School photographs that are fascinating things and I have put them up for sale in my ebay store.


    What has this got to do with murder mystery novels? In truth, not a lot, but it is fascinating to wonder what happened to those hundreds of boys and girls who grew up just before and during World War II.


    Did they witness bombing? There was plenty of that in Birkenhead. Were any killed or wounded? Did they get enough to eat – and what kind of quality was the food? Food rationing was everywhere and very strict too. Can you imagine the kids of today having their food rationed? It’s hard to picture, isn’t it. And how did it affect them mentally? Seeing their fathers and older brothers going off to fight, and maybe not coming back, or returning with hideous wounds. And were any of their houses bombed? There was plenty of that in Birkenhead too, bombing.


    Somewhere in the house I have some pics of Birkenhead Park railway station after taking a pasting, and with large docks just down the road, they must have attracted the Luftwaffe like bees to honey. And were any of those kids evacuated to the countryside? My mother lived a couple of miles away at Greasby and she was evacuated to Anglesey and deepest North Wales.   


    Many of those kids would soon have gone into the armed forces and the odds are that some of them would have been killed, and some of them would have been wounded. It would be interesting to know their life stories – one thing is for sure, some of them would have some pretty horrific stories to tell.


    And if you are a budding writer and are casting around for something to write about, you could do a lot worse than put yourself into the shoes of one or more of those young people and tell their story as it might have panned out. One thing is for sure, your story wouldn’t be short of incident, and with a dash of imagination you could write a memorable tale that could live long in the memory.


    After being evacuated, my mother proudly went into the WRENS and here’s her picture and medals to prove it.


    mum the wren

    Mums medals



    And here’s a link to my ebay store where you will find those fab framed photographs of Birkenhead School pupils in 1938 and 1943, but don’t delay, for I hope they won’t be there for long. 



    Have a great day,





  7. Sycamore Row by John Grisham – Book Review.


    Seth Hubbard is in his seventies and is suffering from terminal cancer. He’s lived a varied life through two marriages and two expensive divorces, separations that might have finished many a man, but not old stubborn Seth. After losing much of his wealth through the divorce courts he sets his mind on re-building his businesses and financial worth through sheer hard work, long hours, and risk taking, and in the end it pays off handsomely for Seth, for he is now, once again, a wealthy man.

       He goes to a big bunch of city lawyers and makes an official will leaving his substantial assets to his children who he rarely sees, and then things start to get interesting.

       Some time later he drafts another will, handwritten, not witnessed, no lawyers involved, removing all his family as beneficiaries, and instead leaves almost everything, and it is considerable indeed, to his black housekeeper, Lettie Lang.

       Then he posts the new will to a struggling local lawyer he has never met, named Jake Brigance.

       Once done, he ambles into the orchard, and, with no one else about, hangs himself from a tree.

       Lettie Lang is in her forties and she’s still a slim pert looking woman. She’s led a hard life, having to fight for every single penny that comes her way, a situation that isn’t helped by a wastrel of a husband who’s away more often than not, and when he does deign to return home he’s usually drunk, broke, and on the lookout for cash, not that Lettie ever has any spare funds.

       When news breaks in the community of Seth’s death, and the will, and the beneficiary, it’s the talk of the town, the county, and even the State. Speculation is rife, precisely what services was Lettie providing for old mister Hubbard up there in the big old house, for him to amend his will like that? Gossip is king. Human beings are gossiping creatures. They can’t help themselves. Put yourself in their shoes. Chances are, you’d gossip too, and because we are so fascinated by gossip, it usually makes for a good story. It certainly has here.

       Of course the family don’t take all that lying down and recruit an army of highly paid lawyers to set things right, and recover what they believe is truly and rightfully theirs. Battle lines drawn, let the campaign begin.   

       So begins John Grisham’s 27th novel, “Sycamore Row”, (Thirty if you count the Theodore Boones.) a book that is a long awaited sequel to his very first story, “A Time to Kill”, a novel that mister Grisham self published because he couldn’t find a publisher to take it on!

       How there must be publishers out there kicking themselves over that wee mistake, but a great lesson for anyone who is writing and publishing their own work today. Sometimes good things can and do happen!!

       But back to “Sycamore Row”.

       The book is set in the same time as “A Time to Kill”, - late eighties, when attitudes to race and relationships were a bit different back then. Have things moved on since? Maybe a tad. My knowledge of the deep south isn’t great, but I certainly hope so.

       This is a cracking good read that I can highly recommend. It’s easy to get into, fast paced, and a real page-turner, and it contains the trademark Grisham touches of humour, always welcome, and most of all, it’s a great story. As you'd expect there are subplots aplenty, lots of twists and turns that keep the story moving and the reader interested. 

       I have said it before and I will say it again: John Grisham is a great writer, and in my opinion, underrated, and perhaps because practically all his books become instant bestsellers, I think he is definitely taken for granted. We should celebrate him while we have him. We are very lucky.

       This is the best book I have read in the past twelve months and one that I would love to have written myself, and I am once again looking forward to his next work. Hopefully, I won’t have long to wait.  Five stars! No brainer.

    And here's a real treat, the man himself talking about "Sycamore Row". Enjoy....


  8. Murder/Mysteries to Keep You Guessing and Wanting More.


    If your guilty pleasure is murder mysteries and crime novels, and especially English crime novels, then Inspector Walter Darriteau is the man for you.


    All his cases are set in and around Chester, Cheshire, Merseyside, the Wirral, North Wales and surrounding districts.


    At the time of writing “The Murder Diaries – Seven Times Over” and “The Sound of Sirens” are released and available from your usual stockist in paperback and on Kindle.


    “The Legal & the Illicit” is now undergoing final proofreading and will be available this year. This one features Walter in a kind of cameo appearance, appearing as he does, in the final third of the book.


    While the all new “The Twelfth Apostle,’ a 500 page novel featuring Walter and his friends all the way through, is also now complete and undergoing final revision.


    Why not mark this website as a favourite so that you can come back and check for the latest info on release dates and availability?


    If you like crime fiction and whodunits then do check out the cases of Inspector Walter Darriteau, and remember you can buy all his cases as a download to your PC, Kindle, or Tablet, for less than £2 each, and in this day and age that seems like a bargain to us, and remember these are not novellas or short novels but full size books ranging in page count from 325 up to 500 so you get plenty of reading to keep you occupied.


    Great for the holiday reads too. Ideal for sharing a few hours on the beach with Walter. He’d like that, and hopefully you will too! 


    Happy reading…    




  9. Superb Wallander Coming to An End.


    The superb Swedish series Wallander, based on the Henning Mankell novels and latterly featuring the excellent Krister Henriksson in the starring role, is coming to an end.

    Last night BBC4 broadcast the penultimate episode where the main character is falling ill. If you live in Britain you may be able to catch that on the BBC Iplayer.

    The BBC's own adaption featuring Kenneth Branagh in the starring role, is also filming a final series featuring the same late books in the series and though they are decent programmes, nothing quite compares to the Swedish originals.

    If you haven't yet come across this Swedish based detective, he comes highly recommended. 




  10. The Legal and the Illicit - New Cover


    My forthcoming book "The Legal & the Illicit" has a new cover and here it is.



    "The Legal & the Illicit" features Walter Darriteau in something of a cameo role, as he appears only in the final third of the book.

    The new cover brings the release date that much closer, and I am hoping it will be available in August or September.

    Watch this space, as they say...

    In the meantime you can read an extract by going here