Friday 19 December 2014




Monday 15 December 2014


I did say last time that I’d blog more often.

I did, didn’t I?

Well, I had good intentions. Too bad. I’m here now. Let’s forget about it. Honestly. It’s okay, have a mince pie. No, not that one, the dog’s been at it. Yes, a bit of bleach and that should come right out.


Since my last post a LOT has happened. There was the amazing launch of Belfast Noir…

And my first public reading at that launch….

A quick word or two on reading in public – it’s a lot more difficult than it sounds. ‘Can you do a short reading?’ you’re asked. Of course I can. I’ve been reading since I was a wee boy – no problem – if I wrote it, surely I can READ it. It’s not like I’ve been asked to juggle chainsaws, fling knives at balloons or speak in moderately coherent sentences, no, this reading lark will be a doddle.

It’s bloody hard.

Yes, of course it’s possible to read something out. But looking up at the audience, making it sound good, giving the language its rhythm, not stumbling over words, all of that takes practice. Done well, it’s entertaining, it’s a performance. Done badly it’s the sound of the cold, dead soul of the very nice lady who tells you what you should do if the lovely plane that you’re in should decide to crash into mountain at four hundred miles an hour. You know the one – nobody listens to a bloody word. Airlines should employ crime writers to read out aircraft safety announcements.

            ‘…in the unlikely event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, for those of you who have upgraded to the Ryanair ‘survival package,’ breathing devices shall be deployed from the panel above you. Those passengers who have not yet upgraded should look under their seats where they will find a set of Rosary beads and a bag with a hole in it. For those of you travelling with small childr…wait…what was that? Did you hear someth…GAAHHHH’


            ‘In approximately one hour we shall be serving our meal; a rather surprising delicacy – served with fava beans and a nice chianti. We hope that you will join us for dinner…’

Anyway, I managed to get through my reading okay. Next time, it’ll be better.
And in case you’re wondering – Belfast Noir is every bit as good as it sounds. Thirteen great stories, and mine. (warning, my story has sweary bits. Practically no sweary bits in The Defence, well, only very, very mild ones. You’ve been warned.)

And in case you missed it….
Here is the UK cover for The Defence

And the German cover with a cool new title – Not Enough Time to Die, which sounds a bit  James Bondy, doesn’t it? I love it.

It’s not long now until The Defence is out in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Japan, and the other territories I don’t yet know about.

I also have to thank Alison and A, who helped me with this...

My first author video, which I'm rather proud of because Alison and A took the bad look off me and did an incredibly impressive and professional job. 

In case you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, you can read some lovely things that lovely people have said about the book…

Liz Wilkins, had these cool things  to say over on her blog, Lizlovesbooks. 

Crime writer and reviewer Rebecca Bradley also loved The Defence and you can check out her thoughts by clicking here.

And some vine reviews are filtering though on Amazon…

Click here for Amazon Vine reviews

And early reviews are here on Goodreads….

The Defence Goodreads Page

Speaking of Goodreads – the great people at Orion Books are giving away 10 copies of The Defence right here –

I know what you’re thinking – he hasn’t mentioned the award yet. The word AWARD is clearly in this blog title. Maybe he’s imagined it?

Well, for about a week I thought I had imagined it. But it’s true, despite my incredulity.

Last week I got word that I’d been chosen by the Northern Ireland Arts Council as one of their ACES Award winners for Literature 2015.

And before you say it – no, I don’t think they’ve realised that I’m a crime writer. Don’t mention it. I mentioned it a couple of times but I think it got away with it. As a crime (cough)…sorry litterarture writer, I shall be heavily involved with the Arts Council and the Seamus Heaney Centre in Queens University Belfast, creating new work, doing a bit of creative writing tutoring (I’ll have to get a tutor to teach me that) and promoting my work and that of my fellow ACES around Northern Ireland. Seriously though, joking aside, I’m really honoured to receive the award. And yes, Northern Ireland Arts Council did know that I was a thriller writer before they gave me the award – I was just having a little joke (I get a bit embarrassed by praise and I seem to have a need to make it humorous). I’m amazed, yet extremely grateful to receive their support and I can’t wait for the work to get started.

Having said that, if you hear tell of the eminent poet, heavyweight killer critic, and Northern Irish literary legend - Tom Paulin, boaking in a taxi, there’s every chance he’s just read my book (see, there I go again).

So next year sees publication – I’ll be launching the book in No Alibis, and a few other choice bookshops elsewhere in the UK and Ireland, and I’ll be appearing at a few literary festivals including Crimefest and more besides. I could tell you more about some of the cool surprises that are planned for next year, but Angela at Orion would snap my neck like a twig.

So, hope you’ve had a great year and my thanks as ever go to my fellow writers, particularly Stuart Neville, Gerard Brennan, Adrian McKinty, Mari Hannah, Nick Quantrill, Mark Edwards, Declan Burke, Susi Holliday, Stav Sherez and Mason Cross, my twitter pals, everyone at AM Heath, everyone at Orion Books, my Facebook supporters, my friends, the Northern Ireland Arts Council, Matt Craig, Clare Costa, Harry Illingworth, Alison and A, all the booksellers who've given The Defence an amazing reception, David Torrens at No Alibis and everyone, especially the wonderful Mrs C, who has given me their support this year.

Thanks folks.

I’ll need that support next year.

Have a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Steve Cavanagh

PS – this is likely to be the last blog post on this site. In January – a brand new website will be launched with cool insider info on Eddie Flynn, the book, and more besides. The blog will move to the new website, where all three regular readers can find me.

Sunday 5 October 2014


Busy? Busy? Yes, I’ve been busy. Busy writing, redrafting, editing, eating biscuits, and generally working like crazy on the next Eddie Flynn novel. So I’ve been a little remiss with the old blog posts, something I intend to remedy.

So here is a long overdue post about my first gig as a writer. Even typing that sentence gives me a little thrill. You see, I’m slowly coming around to the notion of actually being a writer. It may be a class thing, I’m not sure. I remember Billy Connolly doing a piece of material about having dinner in a big country house and asking one of the guests what they did for a living.
            ‘Toboggan,’ was the response.
            ‘No, I didn’t mean to ask what you were doing today. I meant what do you do for a living?’
            ‘Toboggan,’ again was the reply.
            The Big Yin thought, quite rightly, that it was his own upbringing which simply wouldn’t allow him to absorb this information. He imagined the professional toboggan enthusiast signing on the dole.
            ‘Occupation?’ asked the man at the dole office.
            ‘I’m sorry, what?’
            ‘Give me a second would you?’
            Dole officer rings his boss from the back office.
            ‘Does he have his toboggan with him?’ asked the supervisor.
            ‘The poor man must have a speech impediment. Put him down as a tobacconist.’

            (after you’ve read this blog, go and get yourself a Billy Connolly DVD and have a laugh, it’s good for you.)

            I can relate to that sense of incredulity. And there isn’t a kick in the arse between being a writer and being a tobogganist. Both fly by the seat of their pants, out of control for the most of the way and living in constant fear of hitting a tree at any moment. I remember in 2012, when I was writing The Defence, my mates asking me what I was up to at the time.
            ‘I’m writing a novel,’ I mumbled, into my beer.
            ‘You’re igniting a bowel?’
Of course the irony is that later that evening, in the kebab shop, I would engage, rather foolishly, in the process of irritating my bowel. And early the following morning, having consumed many pints of gassy beer and an onion filled kebab the night before, my body certainly possessed all of the raw ingredients necessary to achieve ignition.


The gig. Yes, the gig.

            It was at the tail end of August as part of the Openhouse Festival, in Bangor. Like a lot of first time writers, I had envisaged that the first occasion in which I would be called upon to speak in front of an audience would be at the launch of my debut novel, and the audience would largely consist of friends, dragged along with the promise of drink. I hadn’t in a million years thought that I’d appear on the same bill as a Colin Bateman, Stuart Neville and Mark Billingham. When I was invited to do the gig I accepted on the spot. A huge opportunity had been handed to me by much more experienced, much better writers and I would’ve turned up to make their tea.

Then I realised this gig would be in front of a large, paying audience. Well, as you can probably imagine, with or without gassy beer and an onion littered kebab, bowel ignition had now become a serious possibility. To say that I was nervous doesn’t come close. I was nervous enough just meeting the bloody panel, whom I admire enormously, never mind getting on stage and speaking in front of the audience.

I’m actually quite used to public speaking. I’ve done lectures in front of a hundred or more people, I appear in court regularly, I’ve been MC at a number of friend’s weddings – so you’d think I’d be used to it by now. But then I realised the difference. In court, at a lecture, at a wedding, I’m talking about and on behalf of other people.  This would be the first time I’d be speaking about me, and the book. That’s a whole different ball game.

That’s what was making me nervous. So nervous I didn’t tell my friends or my work colleagues that I was doing it and I forbid (actually, I begged very nicely) Mrs C from attending because that would only serve to make me even more anxious. I tried to pinpoint what it was that made me so afraid, and I realised that it’s largely because when it comes to writing I’ve no clue what I’m doing.

Not a Scooby.

The date for the gig arrived.

Three things got me through the terror that I had before going on stage that evening. Those three things were Colin Bateman, Mark Billingham and Stuart Neville.

They were exceptionally welcoming, they totally put me at my ease, we talked about books and food, gigs, the industry, and they supplied me with a good deal of alcohol before I had to go on.

During our panel session, Mr Neville and Mr Bateman carried my sorry ass, and I even managed to answer a few questions, got a few laughs from the audience (intentionally, mind) and gave away a few books. Then it was time for Mark to take the stage. He was amazingly funny and spoke so intelligently about his work, the genre and the profession. One thing I learned about Mark that evening, he has fabulous timing. No wonder he does stand-up, with timing like that he should be on telly as a comic.

So, I survived and, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I spent a great evening in the company of three brilliant writers. I can’t wait to do it again.

And now I know the secret to getting over my nerves – booze and a little kindness.

If you were at the gig and you picked up one of these beauties…

 ….and on the off chance you’ve read it and enjoyed it - tweet me at @SSCav.
More blogging McBlog bloggy things to come soon… including a piece on Belfast Noir and the brilliant proofs of The Defence that are finding their way into the world.

Until then, be good. Or bad. Whichever one pleases you and involves lots of chocolate biscuits.


Wednesday 30 July 2014


It’s been a while.
How are you?
Has the cream worked?
So, I’ve had a bit of a blogging hiatus whilst I’ve been up to my hiatus in the first draft of book two in the Eddie Flynn series.
It’s good. I think it could be my best yet. No-one has seen it but me. No-one will see it until it’s ready. It’s a bit like Grolsch, really. Remember Grolsch? “we only let you drink it when it’s ready.”
It was a difficult birth, though, that first draft. Took a little longer than expected (7 months) but it’s done and I have loads of time to redraft until my heart’s content.
So there.
Whilst we’re on the subject of beer, since my last post I’ve been to the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. Met loads of really friendly, funny people who were incredibly warm and welcoming. I had a ball, and I even went to some panels. On the Thursday I had dinner with the good people of Orion Books, met some great authors I hadn’t met before, met some other really cool folk, and enjoyed lots of beer, wine, food and craic. The good people I met at that dinner really made the night special. Graeme Williams, Helen Giltrow and I, kept the spirit of the previous evening going through Friday afternoon. 
I also met some of my twitter pals, which is fantastic and really gives you a renewed sense of how amazing social media is when its powers are used as intended. Too many good people to name, but I had a great time with you all, and I’ve hopefully already mentioned on twitter, how brilliant it was to meet everyone. And meeting lots of new people, great. 
On Friday I had dinner with my agent, Euan, along with Jennifer and Victoria from AM Heath, and we were joined by the lovely and talented Martie Villiers and the fascinating, Parker Bilal. Superb night. 
Some of my other highlights from the festival were Mari Hannah’s single digit salute during her panel (it was amazing), SJ Watson in conversation with Sophie Hannah, meeting my Dutch publisher (he’s a very nice and extremely knowledgeable man), the New Blood Panel, meeting up with fellow Northern Ireland authors Stuart Neville (legend) and Anthony Quinn (legend in the making), the Keeping it Real Panel (probably the best panel I saw) and the extremely talented Luca Veste’s story about his part in the worst play ever performed on British soil.
I’ll take that one to my grave, Luca.
What was it like and what have I learned from my first Harrogate experience?
1)    There’s a beer tent.
2)    It gets hot. Sometimes it rains. None of this matters as I’m safely in the beer tent.
3)    Harrogate is a beautiful, old English town. None of this matters as I’m safely in the beer tent.
4)    Everyone, and I mean everyone, is really friendly, approachable and passionate about crime novels. Especially in the beer tent.
5)    Don’t order Guinness in the bar. It comes from a tin, it’s poured into a glass, placed on some form of unholy vibrating plate, shaken, then left to settle. This is a clear breach of the Geneva Convention. Stick to Theakston’s, they have it on tap in the beer tent.
6)    Oli Munson is indestructible. His powers are particularly strong in the beer tent.
7)    WH Smith run a brilliant book shop right on the festival lawn. It’s next to the beer tent.
8)    The organisers, the programming committee, Steve Mosby in particular, and all the festival staff did an amazing job. The Old Swann staff were great too, and, if I may say so, they performed out of their boots in the beer tent.
9)    Did I mention there’s a beer tent?
10)                       If you log on to crimefictionlover’s web domain  right here you might see a picture of me talking to Stav Sherez and Martyn Waites. Guess where I am?
11)                       I didn’t make it to the Robert Galbraith event. My whereabouts at the time are yet to be established.  
12)                       On a more serious note, it’s the first big writing festival I’ve been to, and it was great to stop being a lawyer, and be somewhere because I’m a reader, a fan, and a writer.
I left the festival with a new sense of purpose, a new vigour, and ever so slightly hung over.
Thanks Steve Mosby, for a brilliant first Harrogate. The first of many, for me.   Get more reactions over at Steve Mosby's excellent blog here at theleftroom.
Steve Cavanagh
PS – There will be a beer tent next year, right Steve?

Monday 26 May 2014

Bottled Lightning – Jack Reacher, Larceny and Lessons for Writers.

I have a confession to make.

I was a Chris McQuarrie fan before I was a Lee Child fan.

Who’s Chris McQuarrie?

Some of you may have heard of a little movie called The Way of The Gun. It had a small theatrical release and nobody went to see it. I did. I was first in the line for tickets. This was because the movie was written and directed by McQuarrie. And I thought, and still think, that McQuarrie is a genius. The first script he got produced was for a little film he wanted to make with his buddy, Bryan Singer. That script was The Usual Suspects which earned him the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The Writers Guild of America voted the screenplay for The Usual Suspects at #35 on the list of best screenplays of all time. The Usual Suspects is a heist movie, the title comes from a line in Casablanca and most of the main characters take their names from guys that McQuarrie worked with in a legal firm.

The Way of The Gun has its flaws, it’s not perfect, but it’s vastly underrated. Two criminals, played by Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro, plan to kidnap the surrogate mother who is carrying a child for a wealthy couple and hold her to ransom. They get a lot more than they bargained for. It’s a modern day Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid with a final shootout that rivals The Wild Bunch. One of the things I love about The Way of The Gun is the interaction between Phillippe and Del Toro. A lot of their communication is non-verbal: a wink, a nod, and all the time you can see them thinking their way through the problems thrown at them. It’s an incredible piece of writing and film making and James Caan is superb in this film – some of his best work is on screen here.

When I heard Lee Child’s Jack Reacher was going to be made into a movie, I secretly prayed that McQuarrie would write and direct it.

He did.

I thought there would be no-one better to capture Reacher on screen. And you know what? He does it. He nails the heart of that character.


I will admit to being surprised at Tom Cruise being cast as Jack Reacher. It’s a little like casting Arnold Schwarzenegger as the lead in a biopic on Charlie Chaplin.

I’ve been in the room when Lee Child discussed this and I agree with him that there are not a lot of lead A List actors who are anywhere near Reacher’s physical size. The actors that are that size aren’t great actors to begin with. There are a few who would’ve been closer in size to Tom Cruise but it was a case of ‘is this movie ever going to be made? We have a star and a shoot ready.’

Lee Child has had to endure a fair amount of criticism but casting isn’t really his decision anyway and I can completely understand his reasons for that film being made. The movie adaptation will never live up to some fans expectations.

But in my opinion, humble as it may be, McQuarrie and Cruise captured Reacher, and in fact they captured the most difficult aspect of his character to realise on screen.

For me, what makes Jack Reacher isn’t his size, it’s his mind.

Reacher outthinks his opponents in fights before a single punch is thrown. He thinks through the problems that he encounters in the books to figure out what’s really going on. Those are the best moments in any Reacher thriller.

How do you capture someone thinking on screen?

You hire Christopher McQuarrie.

I really enjoyed the Reacher film and I hope there’s more to come.

For me, McQuarrie and Cruise bottled a fair amount of Reacher lightning.

Feel free to disagree, it’s a movie, it’s an interpretation of a character, not a theft.

Speaking of theft, I’ve been robbed by two films in recent years. Robbed of my time, lied to, and generally I got played.

Spoiler Alert. I’m, going to talk about The Grey and The Amazing Spider Man 2. If you haven’t seen The Amazing Spider Man 2 and you might want to see it, then don’t read on. If you’ve seen TASM2 but you’ve not watched Liam Neeson in The Grey – then I urge you to read on because you’re not missing anything.

Sorry Liam.

I’m a big Liam Neeson fan; I’m from Northern Ireland after all, but Christ on a bike, The Grey infuriated me like no other film I’ve ever seen and it’s not Liam’s fault. He was good in the film. The film itself is poor.

Now, a lot of people liked it. I know Harry Knowles and a couple of his buddies over at Ain’t It Cool News, really loved it.

I hated it and it’s largely because of the trailer.

Liam is a marksman who works for an oil company in some Artic wasteland. He protects the other employees from wild animal attacks, chiefly wolves.

For this film, I willing ignored the widely held knowledge that wolves are terrified of people and rarely do they attack anyone. That wasn’t my bug bear. In the trailer we see Liam on a plane, with around twenty other guys and the plane goes down, they land in the frozen wasteland and about twelve or so survive.

So far, the trailer, and the movie itself up to this point, is setting up a survivor story. I love a good survivor story; man bonds with man against the elements in an effort to survive beyond all the odds. It’s a story about hope, friendship, and the triumph of the human spirit. To triumph, you need adversity. In this movie we have the environment itself and a pack of ravenous and truly terrifying wolves.

So the wolves begin howling as the survivors huddle round a campfire – that’s a really cool scene, probably the best in the film.

At this point, watching the trailer and the movie, I was rubbing my hands thinking this was going to be a great story.

It isn’t.

Before I tell you about the rest of the film, I have to mention the big problem with the trailer.

In the trailer we see a few scenes with Liam on his own; he’s being surrounded by wolves, he’s injured, he takes a couple of empty miniatures of vodka and whiskey and tapes the bottles in between his fingers, then tapes a dagger to the other hand. He smashes the bottom of the miniatures against a rock so now he has his own make-shift broken glass claws, the wolves move closer, quick cuts between the wolf’s eyes and Liam’s eyes and… the trailer ends.

I was thinking, ‘wow, I have to watch that film to see that fight between a desperate Liam and a CGI wolf.’

Back to the movie.

The wolves pick off the survivors. Just as we get to know and like a character, they get killed. More people die. Then more. Then some fall off a rope stretched over a ravine, more get taken by the wolves.

This is getting pretty depressing.

More die.

It’s all hopeless and one character, and I shit you not, dies by simply giving up; he sits his ass down in a rock and says, ‘that’s it, I want to die, I can’t take it anymore.’  This is a little over three quarters of the way through the film and at that stage, I knew how the man felt.

But I didn’t turn off the film.

I’d remembered the trailer. I’m sticking with this depressing film because I want to see Liam fight the wolf. That’ll be awesome, that’ll make the whole film worthwhile.

More die.

Liam’s hurt and scrabbling through the snow.

‘This is it,’ I tell myself.

Liam’s being surrounded by wolves, he’s injured, he takes a couple of empty miniatures of vodka and whiskey and tapes the bottles in between his fingers, then tapes a dagger to the other hand.

‘Here we go,’ I say, and I sit forward in my chair.

He smashes the bottom of the miniatures against a rock so now he has his own make shift broken glass claws, the wolves move closer, quick cuts between the wolf’s eyes and Liam’s eyes and… the movie ends.

Dear Reader, there is very little, if any, swearing in my books, but believe me, I am a world heavyweight contender when it comes to swearing.

I almost woke the kids and frightened the shit out of the dog.

There is no fight with the wolf. The scene in the trailer for the film is in fact the last scene and the very last shot in the whole movie. How bad is that? The very last shot is in the trailer.

Trailers are supposed to tease. This teased me into believing I would see a Liam v Wolf. I didn’t.

This is essentially a survivor film where everybody dies. That might be intellectually brave and challenging cinema. But not for me, I like the bad guys to go down, I like Bruce Willis in a dirty vest, I like Mel Gibson and Danny Glover getting drunk and shooting people. I like to see the underdog win.

A survivor movie where everyone dies is pointless. It’s like making a comedy that isn’t funny, or an action film with no explosions, or a Bruce Lee movie where Bruce doesn’t actually hit anybody.


With Spiderman, again, we see the very last shot of the movie in the trailer.

This is not good enough – this is trickery.

So I’m not watching trailers anymore.

But then I saw the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy. This restored my faith in cool trailers that tease.

If you haven’t seen it, check it out now, it's funny, cool, exciting and it teases, and if Mrs C is reading this - watch the trailer, Peter Serafinowicz is in it - you like him.


Is there a lesson in all of this?


(1) If you’re getting your book adapted for the screen – Chris McQuarrie is a good bet.

(2) If you’re writing a story – don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

(3) Even though he’s only three feet tall, Tom Cruise could probably kick our asses.

(4) If Liam Neeson should get cast in a Renny Harlin film about a tribe of junkie, cannibalistic traffic wardens who moonlight as Burlesque dancers – it will still be a better movie than The Grey.  

(5) Lee Child will continue to write fantastic thrillers with the full-sized Reacher as the central character.

(6) There is a lack of gun-toting, sarcastic raccoons in literature - maybe this is what Will Self is going on about.

(7) If Arnie ever plays Chaplin on screen, I'll be first in line to buy a ticket.

That’s all for now, folks.



Sunday 20 April 2014

Blog Tour - My Writing Process


A little while ago I was delighted to hear from Rob Pateman, who tagged me into the blog tour on ‘the writing process.’

You can check out Rob’s answers here.

Rob and I are lucky enough to be represented by the same literary agency and we have the very same Editor at Orion in the shape of the brilliant Jemima Forrester. Rob writes as RS Pateman and his debut novel THE SECOND LIFE OF AMY ARCHER, will have its paperback release on 24th April. In case you didn’t catch it in hardback now’s your chance. The book has a fantastic premise and Rob’s writing has a real emotional resonance that will keep you turning the pages.

Highly recommended folks.

So my thanks to Rob for the nod, here we go.



At the moment I’m awaiting the copy edits on my first book, THE DEFENCE, and I’m hard at work on the second book in the Eddie Flynn series. At the time of writing this piece I’m about a third of the way through the first draft of that book. There’s not much I can tell you at the moment, as it’s still very much in its infancy. I’ve been reading a lot of stories and blogs about “that difficult second book.” If you’ve read Rob’s post above, you’ll know just how difficult it can be. I did find one piece of advice on the interweb that resonated with me. It was a comment on Stuart Neville’s old blog when he posted about writing his second novel and the rather brilliant Declan Burke offered some great advice. Declan said that there is no such thing as a second book; these days, in this publishing market, every book is your first book. Incidentally, Mr Burke’s latest – Crime Always Pays, has just been released and Stuart Neville’s new book, The Final Silence, will be released shortly. You should look into both; two great writers at the top of their game. And while I’m at it, congratulations to Stuart for the recent Barry nomination for Ratlines.



My books are legal thrillers set in the US. A lot of legal thrillers, and very good ones at that, begin with a murder and then an investigation with most of the drama happening around a third of the way into the book when the trial begins. Typically the hero is a high-flying corporate attorney who is whiter than white and believes in truth, justice and playing fair. The whole book is a build up to that ultimate question – guilty or not guilty.  

There are half a dozen great writers that take that basic legal thriller premise and do amazing things with it. How could I hope to compete with those writers? The truth is, I can’t; they’re better writers than me.

My answer was to rip up that basic premise and start again from scratch. While I don’t want to give too much away, I can tell you that THE DEFENCE will, hopefully, be unlike any courtroom thriller you’ve ever read. I’m trying to put my own stamp on the genre by tearing up the usual narrative form. My Dutch Editor says that THE DEFENCE is like “24” with Jack Bauer as a lawyer. If I’ve accomplished what I set out to do then the book should read like a breakneck, tension-filled courtroom thriller that makes you think. There’s a ‘story within a story’ element to the novel, which I’ve not spoken to anyone about yet; it’s very subltle, but if you look for it, and you follow the white rabbit, you’ll find it. But you can just read it purely for the thrills and twists. Hopefully, at certain points, Eddie will make you reconsider what you thought you knew about the justice system, and maybe even look at things in a different light. In that way, I’m hoping that THE DEFENCE will stand up to more than one read.

I suppose the main thing about my writing that will stand out is the main character, Eddie Flynn. Eddie possesses a truly unique set of skills that hasn’t been seen before in this genre and I’m really hoping that readers warm to him.  



One day I was in the middle of a trial, cross-examining my opponent’s witness. I had a whole strategy worked out. First I would go in hard and aggressive and get the witness on the back foot. This part of the cross examination would deal with a minor, but important point in the case. After fifteen minutes of tough, quick, aggressive questioning, I relaxed. I paused. Took a drink of water. Flicked through the case file in front of me. Leaned back in my chair, fixed my gaze on the ceiling and breathed out heavily as I asked one simple question. It sounded like a throwaway question, like it was unimportant, like I was conceding something in the guy’s favour before moving on to more important issues in the case. The witness grabbed the opportunity to wrestle back control of the evidence and stated his answer firmly, unequivocally, hammering home his evidence without any prompting from me. That was the answer that sank the witness completely; he’d sealed his own fate. As soon as I had my answer I realised that I’d pretty much conned that guy. Albeit, I conned him into telling the truth and inadvertently admitting that he’d been lying in his witness statement. Only I hadn’t really conned him; I’d used a tried and tested advocacy technique that any first year advocate could perform.

Nonetheless, it struck me at that moment that a lawyer and a con artist share almost exactly the same skill set.

And words are their weapons.

Eddie Flynn was born in that moment.

My books explore the question of truth in an adversarial system of justice and whether it has a place or even a relevance. In reality, judges and juries don’t decide what is and what isn’t true – they decide whether an evidential test is met by the prosecution, that’s all. I see Eddie Flynn’s journey through the series as a quest, but he’s not looking for truth, he’s looking for redemption.



I’ve been asking myself that same question. First of all, I’m not entirely sure you can call it a ‘process’ and secondly whether it works or not largely remains to be seen. In an attempt to get something written about this, I tried to analyse what it is that I do in order to get words on a page. The first thing I do is brew coffee. I start writing around 10pm and I stop when my head hits the keyboard. Come to think of it, there’s considerably more processing involved in the brewing of the coffee than the formation of the novel.

I don’t outline anything.

I get an idea and I kick it around in my head for a long time. When I begin writing a book I will redraft and redraft until I have the beginning nearly perfect. I won’t go past the first 30 pages until I’m relatively happy with them. Sometimes that feels like you’re spinning your wheels and not really getting anywhere, but I’m happy to do that.

In my experience to date there has been no tangible pattern to the writing. For example, the first paragraph of The Defence is unchanged from my first draft. I wrote that paragraph in maybe twenty minutes and I haven’t felt the need to change it even though it was the first creative writing I’d done in 15 years. The next 30 or so pages took six weeks to get right before I could move on. With my second novel, I took two weeks to write the first page and a half and a month to get the next thirty pages right. Now I’m on solid ground I go for it and I don’t look back until the whole first draft is finished. I think if I have the beginning almost perfect I’m much more confident to just plough on, knowing that I have a strong starting point which gives a central spine to the story and also sends up a beacon for the final scenes in the book.

By the way, the first page and a half of the next book gave me – 1) a slightly different voice than the last book 2) a huge additional narrative engine that launches the reader head first into the story and will keep them turning the pages  3)  With my best estimate, at the moment, working purely from what’s in my head, those 500 words set up three surprise twists and give me multiple possible endings.

So the start of this book gives me both focus on the story and the characters and yet it also allows me some freedom with the plot.

I’ve only ever written one short story, which will appear in the Brooklyn based Akashic Books latest Anthology – Belfast Noir. That story took maybe two nights. It just sort of arrived fully formed.

So that’s it. I’m handing over now to three great writers who will be posting next week about their writing process.


First up is a legend in Northern Ireland Crime Fiction – Gerard Brennan. At various points when I’m reading Gerard’s work I have to put down the book and smile, because nobody gets close to this guy for dialogue – it’s just so incredibly sharp. Every time I read him I think ‘Elmore Leonard,’ (and yes, he really is that good). Why not try out The Point, on Kindle, for free, and see what I’m talking about. And don’t forget, Gerard also has a short story in the upcoming Belfast Noir, alongside Lee Child, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR Brian McGilloway (*winks to NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR Brian McGilloway*), Glenn Patterson, Claire McGowan, Lucy Caldwell, some guy that nobody’s heard of called Steve Cavanagh, and many more…

 BIO -  ‘Gerard Brennan's short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime. He co-edited Requiems for the Departed, a collection of crime fiction based on Irish myths. His novella, The Point, was published by Pulp Press in October 2011 and won the 2012 Spinetingler Award. His debut novel, WEE ROCKETS, was published by Blasted Heath in 2012. He is currently working on a creative writing PhD at Queen's University Belfast.’

Follow Gerard on twitter @gerardbrennan


Next up is Eva Dolan.

Her debut novel is Long Way Home, a police procedural with a brilliant and unusual setting. The lead characters are DS Zigic and DS Ferreira of the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit and they get more than they bargained for when they begin investigating the murder of a migrant worker. It’s crime fiction at its best – two great ‘outsider’ characters and a brilliantly realised setting that provides for a gripping story whilst exploring contemporary issues. The writing is top class and it’s no wonder that Eva was previously been shortlisted for the Debut Dagger at a ridiculously young age.  Read the first chapter and you’ll find yourself immediately at home with her dark, rich and assured prose, so make sure you check out Long Way Home. You hear that? That dripping sound? That’s talent - running out of her ears.

BIO - 'Eva Dolan writes books and plays poker and the rest of her time she just wastes.'

Follow Eva Dolan on Twitter @eva_dolan


Last up is Jason Dean.

A few years ago I read Jason’s debut – The Wrong Man, which introduces series character James Bishop. Ripping through that book in a couple of days I knew Bishop would be sticking around for a long time to come. The first chapter of The Wrong Man is still one of my favourite openings to a thriller in the last 10 years, and the rest of the book lives up to that fabulous start. The latest James Bishop short story is free on Kindle at the moment, so there’s no excuse for not checking it out.

BIO 0 ‘Jason Dean is an English author of American thrillers, who spent most of his professional life as a graphic designer before deciding to try his hand at writing. His debut novel, THE WRONG MAN - the first of a series starring his ex-Marine protagonist James Bishop - was picked up by Headline and published in 2012. This was followed in 2013 by BACKTRACK, and the third Bishop novel, THE HUNTER’S OATH, will be released in June 2014. Jason now resides in the Far East with his wife and dog and is currently at work on the fourth Bishop novel.’

Follow Jason on Twitter at @Jasondeanauthor

A final note to the above authors, who all sent me images, I'm afraid technology defeated me.