Friday, 18 January 2019



Shinglesea - Chelsea Flower Show 2007

I do like to keep a theme going. In 2007 I designed and exhibited a medal winning garden at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show - and met and shook hands with the Queen. But that's another story. As detailed  earlier, I've now used the facade of the railway carriage backdrop as the front of a studio/writing room I've built in the garden.

Studio/writing room

Not content with that, I'm now reproducing it in miniature at a scale of 4mm to the foot or 1/76. It's part of a model railway layout, that I exhibit, called Compass Point. Now, if you've read my DI Sonny Russell crime novels, you'll know that the detective lives, with his little terrier Aggie, in a converted railway carriage, not far from Compass Point. In reality, Compass Point is a thinly disguised Rye Harbour and his carriage home is actually at Winchelsea Beach. Meanwhile, here's a couple of pictures of the progress so far. 

The carriage is a cut-down model of a kit by Ratio and the fencing is made from matchsticks, split lengthwise in four.

Saturday, 5 January 2019


extracts from 

James O'Donnell Photography.

Aggie was delighted to be out – the weather didn’t bother her. Heads down, Russell and Weeks were striding into the driving rain while she scampered around their feet, tail up, revelling in the scents she found along the shoreline. The two men said very little to each other. The roaring of the wind and crashing of the surf made conversation close to impossible. The storm showed no sign of abating; if anything it was increasing.

The Shipwrights Arms - Compass Point.

Crossing the railway line he walked along the stony track, past the simple weatherboard structure that served as the station building and up to the Shipwrights Arms. It too was a simple, single-storey structure, but built in local sandstone with a pan-tiled roof, unusual for the area. Sat four square at the end of the quay, hunkered down against the weather, it had withstood gale-force winds, salt spray and lashing rain for more than a century.

After they’d left the shelter of Boulogne Harbour the boat had moved easily to the long swell. But as they’d progressed across the Channel the motion had become less comfortable as the sea became more troubled. The wind had increased with every mile they travelled. Soon it was wailing in the rigging – a discordant keening – a child in the chimney. The craft was sturdy, built to take whatever the weather could throw at it. But even now the timbers groaned and seawater slopped about in the bilge. The two men looked anxiously towards the low shoreline, its featureless contours frequently disappearing in the squally rain.

Thursday, 13 December 2018



A few days ago I wrote about my new 'work in progress', BLOOD ON THE CARDS  and mentioned that it was starting in a WW2 pillbox. So, as part of my research, I visited the one I had in mind, on the bank of the Royal Military Canal at Appledore, over the border in Kent. I wanted to get a feel for the location, imagine what it would be like for the police conducting a fingertip search for a murder weapon. Also, I wanted to see what the atmosphere was actually like inside.

It was, as I expected, pretty grim, but not as bad as some I've been in. There was the usual scattering of rubbish - cans, broken glass and litter and, of course, graffiti. Now, as my books are set in the 1950s I don't think it would read PUNKS, maybe, YANKS GO HOME or BAN THE BOMB or maybe nothing. After all, it was only ten years after the war so perhaps it was still relatively pristine.

Anyway, the visit was most fruitful and I can now write about it confidently. 

Friday, 7 December 2018

THE FORTUNES OF WAR - a writer's inspirations

a writer's inspirations.

Last week I finished writing BLOOD ON THE STRAND, book three in the DI Sonny Russell series of crime novels. Hurrah! and Oh dear! I felt a sense of satisfaction for sticking to something for over a year coupled with a strange sense of loss. I've felt this before and the best thing, I find, is to get on with the next project - straight away. But what to write?

I've long had an interest in the esoteric, particularly Tarot cards and the germ of an idea featuring them had been lurking at the back of my mind for some time. But how to use them in a story? I remembered I'd come across an actual unsolved case known as The Wirral Pillbox Murder where the body of a prostitute was found in a WW2 pillbox in 1955. Despite a huge manhunt, which saw 40,000 people being quizzed across the country, her murder still remains unsolved. 

Now, if that didn't start my imagination rolling, nothing would. Obviously, I wouldn't use the story - I write fiction, after all, but a fortune teller and a body in a pillbox? A rotten cold has meant an enforced rest from anything physical but pounding a keyboard isn't physical - is it? So, I'm happy to say that BLOOD ON THE CARDS has seen the light of day and is now well underway.

Monday, 3 December 2018


The trials and tribulations of the self-published author

A bit of a mouthful of a title but it seemed to fit. After a long, exhaustive search for an agent, which so far, has proved fruitless, I set up my own publishing company,

As a self-published author, I am also in charge of publicity. This entails finding retail outlets then ensuring they have enough books. Also promoting the books on social media, forums and through this blog. In addition I have to keep and eye on Amazon where the paperbacks and kindle copies are available. Then, when orders are placed it's me who puts the book in an envelope, addresses it then takes it to the post office. But, to generate more sales I attend various functions.

I exhibit Compass Point, my narrow gauge railway layout that inspired the characters and the stories in my books, at occasional model railway exhibitions. Primarily I am there as an exhibitor so enjoy that aspect of of it but I usually sell a few books, which is gratifying. I have launched my books at The Rye Bookshop, who have been very supportive, and keep a stock of copies. At the weekend I took part in an Arts and Crafts Fair in the Sailing Club at Rye Harbour. Not much to do with books, you might think, but the harbour is thinly disguised at Compass Point in my stories, so there's a strong local connection.

It's the second time I've done it. The other exhibitors - painters and makers - are really nice people so it's a pleasure to take part. I set up my layout as a static exhibit, which acts as a talking point. I can then explain how it has influenced my writing and then maybe sell a book. In fact, I sold a couple of dozen books over the weekend (it might have been more but the weather on Saturday was atrocious).

That might sound like a healthy sales figure but... When I take into account the printing costs and the cost of the pitch, it doesn't leave a great deal. Profit? I don't think so. Like most authors, I write for fun, not profit. So, if you can think of another way to increase sales, I'd be delighted to hear from you.

Friday, 23 November 2018



I don't usually blog so frequently but after returning from the beach this evening I just had to share my thoughts and pictures. I love it at this time of year when I'm often the only person there. And especially when the tide is out. Aggie and I head out as far as we can - hoping to dodge the mud holes then walk along the tideline. And what is even better is when it's twilight. 

The birds are shadowy but vocal: Curlews, Oystercatchers, Turnstones. Dunlin and Little Ringed Plovers. Tonight, they were joined by a pair of Herons, which was rather special.

Aggie loves it too - the large areas of flat sand allow her to run at full tilt, which means she gets plenty of exercise. I just love it there and feel so privileged to have such a wonderful place close by. 

Thursday, 22 November 2018

CITROEN DS - the 1955 Motor show sensation

the 1955 Motor show sensation

At the London Motor Show in 1955 there was the new 2.4 litre compact saloon from Jaguar, the latest MGA sports car and Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, plus a Sunbeam Rapier coupé with whitewall tyres. But the star of the show had to be the vehicle innocuously billed as the ‘2-Litre Six-Seater saloon’ on the Citroën stand. For the previous 21 years their staple offering had been the Traction Avant range.

Citroën had been working on their Voiture à Grande Diffusion (VGD) project since the 1930s. By 1950 the prototype was renamed ‘Projet D’ and in 1955, the DS was launched at the Paris Salon; by the end of that day Citroën had taken over 12,000 orders. 
It was the DS styling that caused the initial sensation, for even in repose it looked like a basking shark.
Variations included The Safari

A beautiful coupe 

And the most bizarre variant, The Reactor

The Reactor was a custom aluminum show car designed by Gene Winfield and completed in 1965. It was based on a 1956 Citroën DS chassis and powered by a Chevrolet Corvair engine. It gained fame when it was renamed The Jupiter 8 and appeared in Star-trek as well as being driven by Eartha Kitt in a Batman film.

I have featured the Citroen DS in my DI Sonny Russell crime novel, Blood on the Tide, when his French opposite number, Inspecteur Guillaume Bruissement has one on trial. I have also written one into Blood on the Strand, soon to be released.

Finally, a Tissier van was developed in the 1960s. 

I've researched this wonderfully futuristic looking vehicle but can find very little information about it. If anyone can supply more details I'd be delighted, so please contact me.